Hey all, Dr. Jeff Anthony here in Toronto at the 2015 Parapan Am games. The Parapan Am games are held every four years following the Pan American Games. The Pan American and Parapan Am Games are the world’s third largest international multi-sport Games; they are only surpassed in size and scope by the Olympic Games and the Asian Games.
First, a little background information: The first Pan American Games were held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1951 with the inaugural Parapan American Games being held in Mexico City in 1999. Both the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games are held every four years for the athletes of the 41 PASO member nations, in the year preceding the Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games. While the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games have been hosted in a dozen countries throughout the Americas, Canada has had the honor of hosting them twice; in 1967 and 1999, both of which were in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
While the Parapan Am Games hosts nearly identical games to that of the Pan Am Games, it differs in that its competitors are categorized based on their particular disability. The categories are:
Cerebral Palsy: Athletes with non-progressive brain damage, for example cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, stroke or similar disabilities affecting muscle control, balance or coordination.
Intellectual Disability: Athletes with a significant impairment in intellectual functioning and associated limitations in adaptive behavior.
Wheelchair: Athletes with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities that require them to compete in a wheelchair.
Visually Impaired:Athletes who are either partially or fully blind
Les Autres: Athletes with a physical disability that does not fall strictly under one of the other five categories, such as dwarfism, multiple sclerosis or congenital deformities of the limbs such as that caused by thalidomide.
Wheelchair Basketball is a game that consists of bumping, sprinting and impressive maneuvering. The US men’s team has a good chance of winning gold at the Parapan Am games and are already qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
The rules are similar to able bodied basketball in that the basket is the same height, the same ball is used and the court is the same size. It differs in other areas, such as traveling. Traveling for example is when they touch their wheels to move more than twice without dribbling. Play is intense as players set picks, steal the ball and on occasion, box a player out and keep them from play. The Parapan Am Committees rate the players according to their disability 1.0 – 4.5, with 1 being the most severe disability like paraplegia at mid chest so they can’t move their legs and have poor core strength. The total sum of the scores of the 5 players in play cannot exceed 14.
Some of the games that take place during the Parapan Am are created during the games themselves by devoted athletes with passions for competing that can’t be found else where. For example, in 1977 during the Canadian games, a quadriplegic was upset that he couldn’t play basketball, and so helped to develop wheelchair rugby. Instead of a traditional rugby ball, a volleyball is used in its place. During each game it is a whirlwind of excitement as each team tries to score against one another.
Steve is a 17 year old high jumper whom had a rotationplasty at 13. He had a cancer of the distal femur; his surgeon removed his knee, rotated the foot/ankle and reattached to the proximal femur. They have to rotate the distal part so that he has a functional knee. He can walk, jump, skip, etc. What’s interesting is when he places his rotated foot into a prosthesis, the ankle works as a reverse knee.
Matt Stutzman, has won the Silver Medal for archery in both 2012 and now 2015. He is also the world record holder for longest accurate bow shot. He was born with no arms and shoots with his feet and mouth. How you may ask? He holds the bow in his right foot, picks up the arrow with his left foot and places it on the bow, then attaches the other end to the shoulder brace; then aims and releases the arrow with his mouth. How inspiring is that!
Sitting volleyball is for amputees, or individuals with problems with their lower extremities. The court is smaller and the net is closer to the ground. The players need to always have their buttock on the ground, and they can block the serve, otherwise the rules are similar to able bodied volleyball. Brazil is currently the best in the world, but US and Canada are also in the running.
Blind sports in the parapan ams are very interesting as certain rules are put in place, not only for the players themselves, but the crowd as well.
Goal ball was initially started after WWII to help blind veterans get back into activity. There are 3 visually impaired people on a team (if not completely blind, eyes are taped), using black eye patches. Court size about 60 ft x 30 ft. The ball has small bells inside to make a noise. The goal is to roll that ball to the opposing net. The defense lays down to block the ball (hopefully not bumping each other). The arena is totally quiet during play so the athletes can hear where the ball is, lay down to block it, then stand and throw it back. Left are our American players (the ball hit the first player and is seen in the air), against the Brazilians (not pictured) who have dominated this sport.
For more information on the Parapan Am Games check out: http://www.toronto2015.org/