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For centuries the dream of conquering the seas has been cherished by peoples all over the globe. For Paralympic athletes, it has come true. Since Sydney 2000, Sailing, one of the most traditional Olympic sports, has been distributing medals at the Paralympic Games. That was the start of a travel of passion around the world whose landing will be more invigorated than ever at Rio 2016™.
The first adapted versions of Sailing competitions were held in Europe in mid-1980s. Paralympic Sailing was Atlanta 1996’s demonstration sport in order to officially integrate the world’s largest event in the next Games edition. Its debut was in two classes: 2.4mR (individual) and Sonar (three athletes per boat). The SKUD-18 class (two athletes per boat) was included in Beijing 2008 and has been confirmed to take part in the next Games editions.
“The inclusion of Sailing in the Paralympic programme has taken the sport to a higher level. It is originally from Europe but today countries in every continent invest in their teams. There have been medallists from America, the Middle East and Oceania, besides Europeans, of course. “The sport has spread in the world and is gaining even more strength with London 2012 and Rio 2016™, which are happening in two of the most traditional Sailing countries: UK and Brazil”, says Carlos Luiz Martins, Chief Planning Officer of the Rio 2016™ Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and president of the Brazilian Confederation of Sailing and Motorboating.
In three Paralympic Games editions, six different countries have reached the top of the Sailing podium. Germany is the only Olympic bi-champion, having earned a gold medal at Sydney 2000, at the 2.4mR class, and another at Sonar at Beijing 2008. Canada and USA are the North American representatives. France, Israel and Australia complete the select group.
The Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games encouraged the practice of the sport in Asia. Countries such as China, Malaysia and Philippines have then sent athletes for the first time, joining in Japan and Singapore as the nations which make more investment in Sailing in that region. The same is expected to happen at Rio 2016™, the first edition to be disputed in South America. Among Latin Americans, only Brazil, Argentina and Puerto Rico have sent their delegations to the Games.
“Sailing raises great expectations in Brazilian spectators as it is the sport which has been awarded most Olympic medals for Brazil. In the next years, the repercussion of the Rio 2016™ Games will attract the eyes to Paralympic Sailing. More people will learn about it and the number of Sailing practitioners will increase. The same rule applies for Brazilians and its neighbouring countries”, Carlos Luiz remarks.
Photo: ©ALLSPORT/Nick Wilson
Paralympic Sailing can be practiced by athletes with visual or motor impairment. At the 2.4mR class, athletes can have a minimum impairment. At the two other classes, sailors are awarded 1 to 7 points according to their functional skills.
At the SKUD-18 class, the helmsperson may be a severely disabled sailor, in other words, he/she must in 1 or 2 classes. The bowperson has to have a minimum impairment. One member of the crew must be a female sailor. At Sonar sailing class, the total number of points per boat with three crew members cannot exceed 14.