The upcoming Paralympic Games will begin on August 28th, and will run until September 16, 2012. The torch will be lit on August 28th by relay teams representing the four nations of Great Britain. Each team will climb the highest peak of the Nation they represent and, by flint and kindling, light a torch.
Groups of disabled and non-disabled scouts will ascend Scafell Pike (England), Snow don/Yr. Wyddfa (Wales), Ben Nevis (Scotland) and Sleeve Donard (Northern Ireland). Each relay team will carry the flame to its capital city for a short ceremony and then proceed to the main arena to be united with the Paraolympic flame during opening ceremonies on August 28th. The Chair of the London 2012 Organizing Committee, Seb Coe, said, “By creating the four Flames through human endeavor at the four highest peaks in the UK, we will ensure that the spirit of each home nation is represented in the Paralympic Flame.”
On the home front, the United States will be sending 54 Olympians to Great Britain to compete in this year’s Paralympics. Five of these athletes are visually impaired. One of those athletes, Lex Gilette, is a blind long jumper. Lex relies on practice, muscle memory, and his sighted partner, Wesley Williams, to position and guide him. Gillette, with the help of Williams, is the current the world record holder for his classification, with a jump distance of 6.73 meters, or a little more than 22 feet.
My favorite event is Para-Dressage. Equestrian events first appeared in the Paralympic program at the 1984 Games, held in Stoke Mandeville and New York, and have been featured at every game since Atlanta in 1996. In Sydney, riders competed with borrowed horses. Equestrian athletics for the disabled is rapidly growing and almost all nations have opened dressage to people with disabilities. Over the years, the system in different dressage grades will develop in the next Olympiad or two, say experts. Classification is a unique element of Paralympic sports, intended to ensure fair competition. As each sport at the Paralympic Games requires different skills and competencies, the impact of impairment on the performance of the athletes varies. That’s why each sport has its own unique classification rules. Perhaps this is why dressage is so attractive to athletes with disabilities. Or, maybe it’s all about the horses.
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