Friday, March 5, 2010

An Idiot's Guide to the Paralympic Winter Games

Though the hordes of media have moved out of Vancouver by now, and the 24-hour TV coverage has long since ended, a whole new group of athletes will be descending upon British Columbia next week. That's right, exactly one week from today, the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games begin.

And while the Paralympic sports and athletes may not get the media attention reserved for Sidney Crosby, Lindsey Vonn, or Bode Miller, they are no less deserving of our respect. With that in mind, here's a quick run-down of the events to be played out by more than 650 athletes over the next few weeks in Vancouver.

  • Sledge hockey: This is quite possibly the most popular winter Paralympic sport. Think typical ice hockey, but sitting down. The players sit on a sled and use a short stick that is curved on one end, and has sharp metal teeth on the other end. They'll dig those teeth into the ice in order to propel themselves up and down the rink. If there's only one spectacle you can check out during the Paralympics, I suggest it be sledge hockey.

  • Alpine skiing: I've been sit-skiing before. In order to do it, I transferred into a specially-designed device, with a seat placed on top of a single large ski. I did it twice, both times on the bunny-hill of the local "mountain" in Suburban Detroit. I know, an oxymoron. Anyway, as I was escorted down the hill, I got up to approximately the speed of sound (or so it seemed). In reality, I was probably going the same speed as some 5-year-old kid next to me. In the Paralympics, it's a whole different ball-game. There is downhill, slalom, super-G: all the typical disciplines you find in the Olympics. And these athletes are flying down the hills. A cool thing about the Paralympics? There's a competition for sit-skiing, visually impaired skiers, and those with disabilities who can ski while standing.

  • Wheelchair curling: If you thought stand-up curling was amazing (and it is!), wait til you see it played by those in chairs. Athletes can either throw the rocks themselves, or use what's known as a "delivery stick." This is just the second time wheelchair curling will be played at the Paralympics, and of course, the Canadians won the gold last time out. Do the Canadians ever get tired of winning curling medals?

  • Biathlon/cross-country skiing: Much like alpine skiing, these events have medals awarded for those standing, sitting, and visually impaired. And much like the Olympics, there are about 10 bazillion different biathlons and cross-country races over the nine days of the Paralympics.
So there you have it. A quick peek at what to expect at the Winter Paralympic games. Now if we could only convince the execs at NBC that a quick peek is exactly what this country is looking for!

No comments: