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The Paralympic Winter Games:
The five official sports

The 2010 Paralympic Winter Games were held in Vancouver from March 12 to 21, 2010. The Games bring together athletes with a physical disability or a visual impairment. These Paralympians or Paralympic athletes are athletes with a disability (AWAD) or disabled athletes.

The five winter sports are sledge hockey, wheelchair curling, the Paralympic biathlon, Paralympic cross-country skiing and Paralympic alpine skiing.

Sledge Hockey

Sledge hockey is restricted to male Paralympians. Because they have permanent physical disabilities of the lower limbs, these athletes cannot skate with conventional ice skates. Instead of standing on skates, sledge hockey players sit on sledges fitted with two blades. In each hand, the players grip an adapted hockey stick, a short stick that is double-ended. One end of the stick has a sharp pick that the player uses to propel the sledge and move about. The other end has a curved blade, like an ordinary hockey stick, that is used to shoot the puck. The rules of sledge hockey are very similar to regular ice hockey.

Paralympic cross-country skiing

In Paralympic cross-country skiing, athletes fall into broad categories according to disability: Standing, Sitting or Visually Impaired. The long-distance, relay and sprint events are shorter than in standard skiing, but they are every bit as demanding. Special equipment is used by athletes in the Sitting category. Athletes in this category are seated on a sit-ski, a chair mounted on skis. Athletes in the Standing category ski with standard equipment (two skis). The same is true for visually impaired athletes; however, they are also accompanied by a guide (or sighted guide). The guide is a sighted person who uses voice signals to direct the athletes.

In all ski events, whether cross-country or downhill skiing or the Paralympic biathlon, all visually impaired athletes are assisted by a guide.

Paralympic biathlon

Like a traditional biathlon, the Paralympic biathlon combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. Biathletes may compete standing on two skis or seated on a sit-ski. Visually impaired biathletes use an electronic rifle that allows them to zero in on the target by relying on audible signals. The acoustic system they use emits a different sound when the rifle is aimed at the target.

Paralympic alpine skiing

Paralympic alpine skiing includes slalom, giant slalom (GS), super giant slalom (Super-G), downhill and super combined events. Disabled alpine skiing has many names, including disabled downhill skiing and para-alpine skiing.

Athletes may ski in a standing or sitting position. Some one-legged athletes hurtle down the slopes at over 120 km/h. They are called athletes with one ski. These athletes are not to be confused with monoskiers. Athletes with one ski are one-legged athletes who ski in a standing position. Monoskiers are sitting skiers (or sit-skiers) who use a monoski, a chair mounted on a single ski; bi-skiers use a bi-ski, a chair on two skis.

Athletes in some categories (sit-skiers and one-legged athletes skiing without a prosthesis, for example) use stabilizers (also called outriggers), which are ski poles with miniskis attached at the bottom. Stabilizers help the skiers maintain their balance and make turns. The athletes' skis must also be fitted with ski brakes (or ski stops).        

Wheelchair curling  

Wheelchair curling is a sport played by athletes with a variety of disabilities who need to use a wheelchair. The athletes use delivery sticks to throw the stones. In wheelchair curling, unlike traditional curling, sweeping is not allowed. That's the main difference. Male and female curlers—the tournament is mixed—get help from a teammate to immobilize their wheelchairs so that they can throw their stones with precision.


Try your hand at this quiz: The Paralympic Winter Games: Own the Podium.

Additional information

Would you like to know the French equivalents for the terms in bold font in this article? See the Translation Bureau's ARCHIVED - Glossary of Paralympic Winter Sports.

You can learn more on this subject by visiting the Web site of the Canadian Paralympic Committee (www) English Hyperlink Notice.