Natalie Schneider celebrates after the women’s wheelchair basketball gold medal match against Germany at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on September 16, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
Postponement of sports
For lovers of archery, badminton, cycling, horseback riding, football, judo, canoeing, triathlon, weightlifting (called powerlifting in the Paralympic program), rowing, shooting, volleyball, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, basketball -ball, fencing, rugby and tennis, you are lucky. All of these Olympic sports are also on the Paralympic program, with just a few adaptations for the athletes. Some sports have more unique adaptations than others.
The forms of basketball, fencing, rugby and tennis featured at the Paralympic Games, for example, are all wheelchair events. Wheelchair rugby should appeal not only to rugby fans, but also to hockey or American football fans who would enjoy the fast-paced action and hard knocks common to the sport known as “murderball”. Team USA is the reigning silver medalist.
These wheelchair sports test different skills as athletes are limited to using their upper body. In wheelchair fencing, for example, competitors’ chairs are locked in place as they fight. And in wheelchair tennis, players must quickly adjust their chair with one hand while getting into position to hit the ball with the other.
Powerlifting is more than just a name change. It’s an entirely different form of weightlifting that tests the strength of an athlete’s upper body. Anyone who practices the bench press as part of their workout routine will appreciate how much weight these athletes can lift, sometimes well over 600 pounds.
For volleyball fans, their sport is played under almost exactly the same rules as Olympic volleyball with one notable difference. The players must all remain seated in contact with the field. The net is of course also lowered. Other than that, fans can still expect to see all of the sets, digs, and eliminations they did at the Olympics. While the American men are yet to win a medal, the American women have won medals at every Games since women’s volleyball debuted in 2004 and have just won their first gold medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Two of these postponement sports are brand new to the Paralympic program. Badminton and taekwondo are each making their Paralympic debuts in Tokyo. Sailing and 7-a-side football dropped out of the program, although in the latter’s case the 5-a-side event continued. The United States team did not qualify a 5-a-side team for Tokyo.
The U.S. women’s goalball team in action against Japan during the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Test Event on September 29, 2019 in Chiba, Japan.
Come on, go to goalball
Any handball fan who hasn’t seen the United States team at the Olympics should give goalball a try. One of two unique Paralympic sports that has no Olympic equivalent, goalball is a sport specially designed for visually impaired athletes. The concept is simple; two teams of three try to throw or roll the ball into the other team’s net.
But there are a few wrinkles that make Goalball such an exciting and one-of-a-kind watch. All athletes wear glasses that completely block their sight to ensure that all players have the same level of vision. The ball contains bells so that players can only hear the ball coming. And on a court the size of a volleyball court, athletes don’t have much time to react as the ball gets closer to the net.
The United States has traditionally been one of the strongest teams in goalball. The United States team has the most medals of all time since goalball’s Paralympic debut in 1976 for the men and 1984 for the women. The men’s and women’s teams won medals five years ago in Rio.
Timothy Hawker competes in the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games on September 23, 2004 in Athens.
Bowling for medals
The other unique Paralympic sport is boccia. Linked to other sports such as pétanque and lawn bowling, boccia has been part of the Paralympic program since 1984. Fans of one Olympic Winter Games sport, curling, should find a lot to like as competitors try to take turns bringing their ball closer to a target ball. called a jack. Unfortunately for Team USA fans, the United States will not be fielding a boccia team in Tokyo.