EMILY GRAY, amputee reintegration and motivational specialist, discusses adaptive action sports for people with disabilities, who could be contenders at the 2024 Paralympics.
Adaptive action athletes are innovative, courageous people who are constantly reforming and changing perceptions around disabilities. By finding different ways to adapt to their circumstances, they are able to redefine the word impossible. Action sports require balance, coordination, and movement as key components for performance.
These key components are particularly challenging for people with disabilities in their everyday life let alone within a sport. The following four sports have shown great growth in the adaptive arena over recent years and may become contenders at the 2024 or 2028 Paralympics.
Last year 77 athletes competed in the first 2016 Stance ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship, held in the US city of San Diego. This was a huge moment for adaptive surfing as it created the opportunity for disabled surfers to surf professionally.
There are six categories, depending on the athlete’s ability to stand, sit and lie down, and measuring muscular strength and visual impairments. Team South Africa finished in a very respectable sixth position with a total of 3 618 points. Brazil took the gold with the US and Chile trailing closely behind.
“The event has built upon the platform created in 2015 to launch the sport towards Paralympic inclusion. However, the Paralympics are not the final goal, they are the ultimate achievement. The final goal is to spread the joy of Adaptive Surfing around the globe,” says the ISA President, Fernando Aguerre.
This fast-pace, low-impact sport shows no signs of losing popularity. It’s especially good in cases of spinal cord injuries or cerebral palsy as it activates core strength while working neurological pathways needed for coordination. Because it is a relatively low-impact but fast-paced sport, it’s bound to capture interest around the world.
Markus Pfisterer, a kitesurfer from Switzerland, displays brilliant balance and skills as he rides waves and catches air with his makeshift chair-board.
Adaptive climbing clubs have been attracting lots of interest in recent years. Disciplines are broken down into divisions for lower- and upper-extremity amputees, those with neurological or physical disabilities, seated climbers and visually impaired climbers. Athletes with spinal cord injuries or loss of trunk stability have variations on a harness system.
It is possible to use a standard harness in conjunction with a chest harness. This allows the climber to remain in an upright posture while climbing. Seated harness systems are also available, with bigger waist belts and leg loops to help prevent pressure sores.
As the Olympic Committee has officially included sport climbing as an event for Tokyo 2020, we hope that Paraclimbing will be added to the list of Paralympic sporting codes for the 2024 Games.
Guys like Oscar Loreto are really inspiring the future generation of adaptive skateboarders as they constantly redefine and push their boundaries of possibilities and potential. Organisations such as Adaptive Action Sports are helping to give the sport exposure, support and momentum.
Another influential pro-adaptive skateboarder is Jo Comer, a below-knee amputee. He advises anyone who is unsure about skateboarding to simply go for it.
“You don’t know until you try,” he says. “For me it was awesome. The advantage is you can do it by yourself, and it is what you make of it. You can use your own creativity.”
If you don’t live near any adaptive clubs but are interested in joining one, go out and start your own group or club. It is up to you to use your creativity in finding a way – take the first step in your community!