I worked as a press officer for U.S. Paralympics Swimming in Athens and Beijing, and for the U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team in Torino. When pregnant in 2010, I stayed involved by writing a few blogs for Women’s Adventure Magazine from Vancouver. My photographer husband and I have been so lucky to be part of this movement – and really, this extended family – together. He’s been shooting the Paralympics since Athens and is currently in Sochi capturing these amazing athletes in action.
For those not close to the Paralympics, though, there remains quite a bit of confusion (even for some of my closest friends and family.) So, on the eve of the Paralympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony, I’d like to offer a quick overview to get everyone in the Paralympic spirit!
First off, a few fast facts:
- The Paralympic Winter Games take place March 7-16, at the same venues as the Olympics, in Sochi.
- The name “Paralympics” is not about “paraplegia.” It combines the Greek preposition “para” (meaning beside/alongside) and “Olympic.” The Olympics and the Paralympics are separate, but exist side by side.
- I often hear people mistakenly say “Para-Olympics” – don’t do it; it’s the “Paralympics.”
- 700 athletes from 45 countries will compete in Sochi. It is poised to be the biggest Paralympic Winter Games ever, with 200 more athletes compared to Vancouver, and competitors from four new countries represented.
- It is an elite competition, akin to the Olympics, with 72 medal events.
- Athletes will compete in five sports: Alpine Skiing, Para-Snowboarding (making its Paralympic debut at Sochi), Nordic Skiing (including biathalon and cross-country skiing), Wheelchair Curling and Sled Hockey.
- The six disciplines include: Amputee; Cerebral Palsy (including traumatic brain injury or stroke, which affect muscle control, balance or coordination); Visually Impaired/“VI” (ranging from partial sight to total blindness); Wheelchair (including athletes with spinal cord injuries, as well as some with lower limb amputations or polio); Intellectual Disability (those who have a significant impairment in intellectual functioning with associated limitations in adaptive behavior); Les Autres (including people with a mobility impairment, e.g. Dwarfism, Multiple Sclerosis, that is not included in the other categories.)
While I’ve heard many complaints about the lack of primetime coverage, I have to say I’m personally thrilled to see this year’s broadcast line-up. It continues to grow every year, and slowly but surely, I believe that the Paralympics will get the attention it deserves.
In the next week and a half, NBC Olympics and the USOC will broadcast an unprecedented 52 hours of coverage (27 of which will be live) for the Sochi Paralympic Games.
- First chance to watch: Friday, March 7, 11:00am ET, Opening Ceremony on NBCSN
- Complete broadcast schedule is here (Scroll down the page, where it’s not segmented out by sport, and where you’ll see some more reasonable viewing hours – e.g. the Sled Hockey game times, as well as Daily Paralympic Coverage.)
- TeamUSA.org will also live stream all events
Want to Read / See More?
In case you’re interested in learning more -and for those of you who said your kids were asking questions! – here are a few more links to start with.
- Story I wrote from Vancouver about Danelle Umstead, a visually impaired skier, whose husband is her racing guide.
- Story I wrote from Vancouver about Alana Nichols, a two-sport phenom in Alpine Skiing and Wheelchair Basketball (summer games), who recently played a Paul Rudd prank on Conan O’Brien (hysterical – absolutely worth watching!)
- Link to shots from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Paralympic Games from my husband, Joe Kusumoto.
- Additional resources from U.S. Paralympics.
I promote what I love. And I truly hope that more people are able to hear the stories, witness the athleticism and get an opportunity to connect – even if in small ways – with the Paralympians and the Paralympic Movement.