‘Para sports’ is the term for sports in which disabled athletes compete that are recognised by the International Paralympic Committee. Athletics, canoeing, cycling, shooting, skiing and swimming all offer para sport opportunities, and New Zealand has been successful in these sports. The term ‘disability sports’ is used for sports which are not recognised by the International Paralympic Committee. A network of national and regional disability sports organisations have provided a wide range of sport options over the years, and have run youth groups for disabled athletes.
Some sports have been adapted from existing sports, such as cycling and skiing, and others have been created as new sports.
Examples of para and disability sports
Boccia is similar to bowls and pétanque, but played on a wooden-floored court, using leather balls. Seated athletes aim to get their balls as close to the jack as possible by throwing, kicking or using a ramp to propel them. A game of strategy and skill developed for athletes with a disability affecting locomotor function (movement), boccia can be played as an individual or team sport.
Goalball and five-a-side football
Goalball was invented in Austria in 1946 to help rehabilitate blind war veterans. Because the sport is for visually impaired athletes, the ball has a bell in it. Teams of three, playing on a hard court, try to throw the ball across their opponents’ goal line, while the defenders try to prevent this. Five-a-side football is another sport for visually impaired athletes. Teams of five, using modified FIFA rules, play on a smaller than standard field, with all players except the goalkeeper blindfolded. Five-a-side football was added to the Paralympic programme in 2004.
Like goalball, wheelchair basketball was developed by injured servicemen after the Second World War. It is played by teams of five on a standard basketball court with goals of standard height.
Wheelchair rugby is a fast-paced, full-contact sport played indoors on a basketball court. Eligible athletes have some loss of function in at least three limbs. Specially designed wheelchairs enable players in teams of four to block, charge and tackle, with the objective being to carry the ball across their opponents’ goal line. The New Zealand Wheel Blacks team won gold at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.