Blind downhill skiing
You get up; rub the sleep from your eyes stagger into the bathroom. Turn the light on, come out and go to the kitchen to make yourself a cup of coffee, get showed and dressed. Then you are off to work.
All quite normal things to do, you pay no attention to them. All of these things you need your sight to be able to do on autopilot every morning. Now tomorrow try then blindfolded and see how difficult they are! Thanks to Ben Hatton, M Tanner Sports is taking a look at an incredible sport which millions of people wouldn’t have thought was possible.
Blind downhill skiing featured in Channel 4’s excellent coverage of the winter Paralympic games this year. Many people did not know this sport existed so hopefully after this article we will all know a little bit more about it. The competition rules are summed up on the Paralympic website:
Each athlete competes one run down the course with their finish time determining the final order based on ascending time. Athletes ski down a long, steep course and must pass through a relatively few number of gates. If an athlete misses a gate they are disqualified. For weather, safety and other reasons, the jury can decide to have two-run downhill if the vertical drop does not comply.
So it uses the same principles as the Olympic sport yet these skiers are classified as blind and use a guide in front of them to help them complete the course. There are two ways of competing:
One was is the guide going first with the athlete a few seconds behind. Instructions will be given on where and how to turn in order to go through all the gates and where to speed up or slow down.
The other way is the athlete going first with the guiding helping them from behind. This requires more details of the track ahead.
In recent years the sport has been getting quicker times with the athletes willing to push themselves faster in order to become a master of their profession. Speeds of 75 miles an hour can be achieved with many athletes pushed to their limit; especially with the prospect of a gold medal looming.
The first Paralympics to have this event was back in 1984 in Innsbruck, Austria and is one of the must watch sports of the winter games since.
The International Blind Sports Association has said that,
“Alpine (downhill) skiing is one of the rare opportunities available that allows the blind individual to move freely at speed through time and space. It provides the opportunity to embrace and commune with the primal force of gravity, thus experiencing the sheer exhilaration of controlled mass in motion, in a physically independent setting.”
So the can do attitude shown by these athletes should inspire us all to do something differently in our lives after seeing their successes. Everybody has the ability to do anything they set their mind to however hard life is at the moment.
Vision Aware – Skiing for people who are blind or visually impaired.
Paralympic website – guide to all Alpine skiing events
Hope you enjoyed reading this, any questions or comments please get in touch.