Blind Sports Represented at Tokyo Paralympics 2020
24th of August was the momentous day – Tokyo Paralympics 2020 started. This event celebrates and gives the opportunity to people with all kinds of disabilities to compete on a worldwide level. Do blind and visually impaired people participate in Paralympics? Of course, they do! Let’s take a brief look at some of the blind sports included in the Paralympics 2020!
Goalball is a sport played only by visually impaired people. The objective of the game is to throw a ball using a bowling motion past the opponents and into their net to score points. This can be achieved by bouncing, curving, and spinning the shots around the opponents. Players stay on their hands and knees to defend their net and score against their opponents. To help the blind sportsmen, the ball has embedded bells which makes it possible to hear where the ball is and navigate easier throughout the game. Spectators must stay silent during play so that players can hear the ball and each other, but they are free to cheer when a goal is scored.
Goalball was introduced to the Games as a demonstration event at Toronto 1976, then added to the Paralympic program as a full medal sport four years later in Arnhem.
Developed as a rehabilitation activity for injured soldiers returning from World War II, goalball has since become well-known worldwide and is now played in more than 100 countries.
2. Football 5-a-side
Football for people with a visual impairment started out as a playground game for schoolchildren and was taken up in several countries, each playing with their own local sets of regulations. It became an official IBSA sport in 1996 when internationally recognized rules were established. It then became a Paralympic sport at Athens 2004 and has been contested at every Games since.
Because vision is thought to provide roughly 80% of the information humans receive, outfield players have a guide who serves as their eyes. The guide sits behind the opposing goal and transmits information such as the distance to the goal and where other players are located.
The team coach and the goalkeeper are also allowed to give cues during a game, such as ‘eight meters, 45 degrees, shoot!’. Watch as the players utilize this information to identify and exploit defensive flaws in order to bring the ball closer to the goal.
3. Paralympic equestrian
Athletes and individuals with a disability have long taken part in equestrian activities, originally as a means of therapy and rehabilitation but also for recreation purposes. These days, athletes with all kinds of disabilities compete in this sport, including visually impaired sportsmen.
The para-dressage competition program includes the Individual Test, the Team Test set to music, and the Individual Freestyle open to the top 8 athletes from each Grade based on the results of the individual test. Unlike the Individual and Team Tests, which require athletes to perform a pre-determined routine, the Freestyle is unique to each athlete, with choreography and music created by them. There are 78 qualification slots for the para-dressage competitions including 15 team slots. Qualified teams can compete with up to four athletes (minimum three), but there is an interesting variation in the structure for 2020 when it comes to the Team competition, with only three athletes per team nominated to compete and no drop score.
These are just a few of the sports represented at the Tokyo Paralympics that visually impaired people participate in. We really hope to see more and more blind people representation when it comes to worldwide events like this in the upcoming years!