London set the stage for the 2012 Olympic Games: Two weeks of amazing feats of strength, athletics, endurance and skill. What a spectacle!
While the games are now history, the excitement in London has not ended. The city is now preparing for another 11 days of awe-inspiring athleticism, as the Paralympic Games are coming.
Aug. 29 through Sept. 9 the world will once again look to London as it hosts the worlds best athletes with disabilities. Slated to be the largest edition of the games yet, an estimated 4,200 athletes from 165 countries will compete for the gold, including more than 220 from the United States.
The Paralympic Games are the second-largest sporting event in the world behind the Olympic Games. The games are primarily for athletes with physical and visual disabilities. Events this year will include swimming, track and field, table tennis, archery, goal ball, wheelchair basketball, rugby and tennis.
Adaptive and Paralympic sports were developed as a rehabilitative tool for soldiers who suffered disabilities in World War II. It was found that adaptive sports were a highly effective technique for physical and psychological recovery. Paralympic sports grew slowly over the next 50 years and have evolved from a veterans-oriented movement to a civilian-led, more comprehensive sport movement that is rapidly growing.
Turnstone Center for Children and Adults with Disabilities introduced adaptive sports to northeast Indiana in 1996 and is now one of the largest Paralympic sports clubs in the United States and a leader in Paralympic sports. In the last 16 years, the sports program at Turnstone has grown to more than 150 participants in wheelchair basketball, soccer, tennis, sled hockey, fencing, kayaking, archery, goal ball and, coming soon, rowing. Turnstone athletes live in many communities of northeast and central Indiana and northwest Ohio.
Participation in sports is as important to the emotional and physical health of people with disabilities as it is to those of us without disabilities. Exercise ensures ongoing health and wellness, vital to people with mobility limitations. Athletes with disabilities enjoy the thrill of competition just as everyone else. Parents of athletes with disabilities sit on the sideline and cheer just as loudly as those parents in our high school gyms, tracks and soccer fields.
Turnstone is that first step to introducing adaptive sports to people in the area with physical disabilities and working toward helping to grow Paralympic sports in the United States.
So tune back into what is going on in London and follow Team USA. And cheer for our own local athlete, former Fort Wayne resident and Homestead High school graduate Noah Yablong, a member of the USA wheelchair tennis team. We watched Noah get on the tennis court for the first time more than seven years ago. We are extremely proud to say that we have been part of his journey to London.
To follow the games, visit Paralympics.org, U.S. Paralympic on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. In addition to the online content, NBC Sports Network will broadcast game highlights.
Let the games begin. They will inspire you.
Executive director, Turnstone