The Paralympics – Putting Wheelchair Sports in the Spotlight


Wheelchair taking part in marathonInterest in wheelchair sport and activity has grown steadily over recent years, and the Paralympics in Rio in September 2016 are set to put disability sport in the spotlight once again. As leading suppliers of wheelchair adapted cars for sale in East Anglia, at Ransome Mobility we take an interest in the whole range of issues affecting people with disabilities. Here we look at how the Paralympics promote wheelchair exercise and fitness.

As well as cheering on elite disabled athletes in a whole range of different sports, it’s likely many wheelchair users will take up the challenge to get involved themselves. Six months after the London Paralympics in 2012, statistics showed that numbers of people playing wheelchair rugby had soared by a third, while wheelchair basketball participation was up by a quarter.

However, the picture is somewhat mixed overall, since participation levels for disabled sports are still lower than for able-bodied. A major problem can be access, since it may be difficult for wheelchair users to get to centres offering activities and also to gain the right support. Unfortunately, sometimes the sports in your local area may also be limited.

However, using a wheelchair access vehicle can help to make it easier to get to sessions which interest you, giving greater independence and freedom. Another advantage is that you can also carry any other equipment you might need for your chosen sport or activity in your vehicle as well as your wheelchair itself.

How the Paralympics Have Grown

The first seeds of the Paralympics movement were sown shortly after World War Two, when many injured veterans of the conflict were keen to take part in sport to help their rehabilitation.

Dr Ludwig Gutmann opened the famous spinal injuries centre at Stoke Mandeville during the war. In 1948 he organised an archery contest there for wheelchair athletes, known as the Stoke Mandeville Games, which were run at the same time as the Olympics in London. The first full Paralympics were staged in Rome in 1960 and since then the Games have been held every four years, with Winter Games also being staged.

In recent years there has been more recognition of the high standards achieved by Paralympians, with the Games being shown on TV and excitement over medal winners. Leading Paralympic athletes are honoured worldwide and recognised as role models, for instance swimmer Ellie Simmonds, who is a household name after winning four medals in 2012.

This year’s Paralympics will feature 23 different sports and 528 events spread over 11 days. Wheelchair basketball, tennis, rugby and fencing will all feature, as well as sitting volleyball. There is a lot of excitement over Britain’s tennis prospects in the Games after Scotland’s Gordon Reid scooped the first-ever men’s wheelchair singles contest at Wimbledon this year, and also won the wheelchair doubles with partner Alfie Hewett.

The Paralympics, together with other wheelchair sports including marathons, has led to a greater awareness that people with disabilities can be successful in sport. Promising youngsters, in particular need, to be encouraged and offered the right training.

Taking Up the Challenge

Some wheelchair users watching this year’s Rio Games will be inspired to work towards a place at the next Paralympics in Tokyo in 2020. Of course, this obviously isn’t realistic for everyone. Most disabled people are over 50 and many would not consider taking part in elite sports. However, many more will be inspired to join local sports clubs, for instance taking up wheelchair football with clubs such as the Ipswich Charioteers, which is planning to spread throughout East Anglia.

Even if you feel that competitive sport isn’t for you, it is still important for wheelchair users, like everybody else, to get enough exercise. The NHS gives general advice for all adults aged from 19 to 64 to carry out at least two and a half hours of moderate aerobic activity weekly, which means exercise that raises the heart rate. Muscle-strengthening exercises are also important and can help to avoid injuries such as arm strain from pushing a wheelchair manually.

The best ways to get exercise vary depending on individual situations and levels of fitness, but various different activities are available, and again the NHS has a range of suggestions. These include wheelchair workouts and other chair-based exercises as well as using adapted gym equipment or swimming. Local leisure centres or gyms should be able to give information about what accessible equipment they have over the phone before you visit.

Wheelchair accessible cars play a vital role in enabling people with disabilities to get out and about and lead a full life, including taking part in sports and fitness activities. At Ransome Mobility, we offer a wide range of new and second-hand wheelchair adapted cars for sale and can help to find the right vehicle for you. Based at Ipswich in Suffolk, we serve customers across East Anglia, including many from Norfolk, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

Wheelchair Adapted Cars for Sale East Anglia – Click to see our range of used WAVs.

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