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Paralympic Series

"The Paralympic Games are about transforming our perception of the world." - Stephen Hawking

What To Watch Now That The Olympics Are Over

A Guide to the Sports of the Paralympic Games

Every year on December 26th, many people suffer from the Post Christmas Blues. The best medicine for Christmelancholy, which is the scientific term I gave to the illness, is to prepare for a holiday that is just as fun, New Years Eve.

Similarly, every four years another epidemic spreads throughout the world, Post Olympics Depression. The elevated sense of community, excitement, and patriotism that the Olympics incite is sorely missed when the torch is put out. But just like New Years never fails to follow Christmas, the Paralympics always supersede the Olympics. So, the fun isn't over yet folks, it's just begun!

The following list is comprised of 22 sports that athletes will compete in from September 7-18 during the Paralympic games. What are you most excited to watch?

1. Archery

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Dates of competition: September 10 - 17

Medal Events: 9

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments x

Archery was included in the very first Paralympic games. In Rio, there will be 3 men's events, 3 women's events, and for the first time ever, 3 mixed gender team events.

The competition format is similar to it's Olympic counterpart, but athletes can compete standing or sitting.

2. Athletics (Track and field)

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Dates of competition: September 8-18

Medal Events: 177

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments ✓

Visual impairments ✓

Track and field is another sport that has been included in the games since it's first edition. This sport attracts a huge crowd because of it's diversity of events. The event list is comparable to the Olympic program, but the type of adaptability you see from the athletes who run, jump, and throw is unique to these games.

3. Boccia

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Dates of competition: September 10 - 16

Medal Events: 7

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments x

Boccia is one of two sports that are unique to the Paralympic games (there is no Olympic counterpart). It is a game of strategy played by athletes with affected motor skills. What makes Boccia fascinating, to me at least, is that it's an outlet that gives athletes with such limited movement a way to showcase their talent.

Players throw colored balls as close as they can to a white target ball, and the team or individual player with the most balls near the target ball wins.

4. Canoe

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Dates of competition: September 14 & 15

Medal Events: 6

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments x

The Canoe sprint is making it's debut in Rio. The event will only actually only consist of kayaks, no canoes, and the objective is simple. The fastest athlete to complete 200m straight line course in the fastest time wins!

5. Cycling

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Dates of competition: September 14-17 (road), September 8-11 (track)

Medal Events: Road- 33, Track- 17

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments ✓

Cycling was originally just for visually impaired athletes, who rode tandem bikes with a guide. Now the sport includes athletes with physical impairments who also have adaptive bikes, like tricycles or handbikes.

6. Equestrian

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Dates of competition: September 11-16

Medal Events: 11

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments ✓

Equestrian made its debut in the 1996 Atlanta Games. The only equestrian discipline in the Paralympic Games is Dressage, where riders must demonstrate horsemanship skills through commands and movements. This includes individual, team, and freestyle events.

7. Football 5-a-side

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Dates of competition: September 9, 11, 13, 15 & 17

Medal Events: 1

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments x

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments ✓

This sport is also known as blind football. Each team is comprised of four visually impaired players who wear masks (mostly for fashion reasons, but also to make the playing field even) and a sighted goalkeeper who is allowed to give verbal instructions. Each team has a coach and a designated guide who are also allowed to give verbal instructions. The ball makes a sound so that the athletes can track it, and the audience has to keep completely quiet!

8. Football 7-a-side

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Dates of competition: September 8, 10, 12, 14 & 16

Medal Events: 1

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments x

This is another adaptation of the world's most popular sport, but in this case the event is played by athletes with cerebral palsy and impairments of similar nature. You can make noise when watching this game, and with it's known intensity I bet you'll want to!

9. Goalball

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Dates of competition: September 8-16

Medal Events: 2

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments x

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments ✓

Goalball was invented in 1946 as a means of rehabilitation for WWII vets who had lost their vision, and was brought on as a Paralympic sport in 1976.

There are three masked players on the court at a time per team, and their aim is to roll a ball into their opponent's goal on the other side of the court. Bells inside of the ball create noise so that the other team can position their bodies to block the ball, which can reach speeds of 100kph!

10. Judo

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Dates of competition: September 8-10

Medal Events: 13

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments x

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments ✓

Judo was introduced to the Seoul games in 1988 for men, and at the 2004 Athens games for women. This event is exclusively for visually impaired athletes, who are grouped into different weight classes. The athlete who scores the most points by attacking, defending, and maintaining balance in each 5 minute contest wins.

11. Powerlifting

Dates of competition: September 8-14

Medal Events: 20

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments x

All athletes compete in one discipline in powerlifting: the benchpress. From a laying down position, they have three attempts to complete a "good" lift. Competitors aren't classified based on impairment, as there is only one functional class. Like Judo, they are grouped into weight classes, and whoever can best answer the question, "do you even lift, bro?" wins.

12. Rowing

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Dates of competition: September 9-11

Medal Events: 4

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments ✓

There are three different classes in Paralympic rowing, but all race the same distance, 1,000 meters. In Rio, the race will take place on the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas (Lagoa= lagoon).

13. Sailing

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Dates of competition: September 12-17Medal Events: 3

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments ✓

Paralympic sailing is one of the few sports that doesn't divide competitors by their gender. Guanabara Bay will be the stage for three events based on type of boat: single-person keelboat, two-person keelboat, and three-person keelboat.

14. Shooting

Dates of competition: September 8-14

Medal Events: 12

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments x

They shoot, they score! Athletes in this event are divided up into three classes and are able to use support equipment, like tables and chairs, to help them take aim.

15. Sitting Volleyball

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Dates of competition: September 9-18

Medal Events: 2

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments x

In sitting volleyball, there is one major rule: your butt must be in contact with the floor during your every move. The net is 1.15m from the floor for men (1.05m for women) to comply with this modification of the sport. The first team to 25 points wins a set, and the best of five sets wins the game.

16. Swimming

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Dates of competition: September 8-17Medal Events: 151

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments ✓

Visual impairments ✓

17. Table Tennis

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Dates of competition: September 8-17

Medal Events: 29

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments ✓

Visual impairments x

Make sure you don't blink when you watch Paralympic Table Tennis, this sport moves fast! Some players compete from a standing position, some are seated, but all play at the speed of light.

18. Triathlon

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Dates of competition: September 10 & 11

Medal Events: 6

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments ✓

The paratriathlon will be making it's debut in Rio! The distances will be 750m swim, 20km cycle, and 5km run, which is known as a sprint triathlon. September 10 & 11 will be paramount days in Paralympic history, so don't miss it!

19. Wheelchair Basketball

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Dates of competition: September 8-17

Medal Events: 2

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments x

Wheelchair basketball is another sport that has been a part of the games ever since the first edition in 1960. The basket height is the same as basketball, 10ft. Dribbling and traveling are adapted; players must bounce, shoot, or pass every two pushes of their chair.

20. Wheelchair Fencing

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Dates of competition: September 12-16Medal Events: 14

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments x

If you're on the fence about whether or not you will watch the Paralympic Games, this sport should help you make your decision! In this exciting sport, wheelchairs are secured to the ground, so athletes compete only using upper body movements. Competition is broken down by weapon; foil, epee, or saber.

21. Wheelchair Rugby

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Dates of competition: September 14-18Medal Events:

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments x

Wheelchair rugby, aka "murderball," is one of the most intense sports out there. Crashing is not only allowed, it's encouraged! It's a hybrid of rugby, basketball, and volleyball, and the aim of the game is carry your ball across the goal line.

22. Wheelchair Tennis

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Dates of competition: September 9-16Medal Events: 6

Open to athletes with:

Physical impairments ✓

Intellectual impairments x

Visual impairments x

Wheelchair tennis made its Paralympic debut in the 1992 Barcelona games. If you're looking for a sport that combines grace, alacrity, and ferocity, look now further than wheelchair tennis!

Elyse Snyder