The History Of The Paralympic Games
The Paralympic Games were created to provide the opportunity to participate in sporting competitions to people living with physical disabilities. Athletes with disabilities had previously participated in the Olympics Games, but in 1948 on day 1 of the Summer Olympics, a sporting event was held for World War II veterans with spinal cord injuries. Founded by Dr. Ludwig Guttmann, the first Paralympics were called the 1948 International Wheelchair Games, and its first participants were from England. Its popularity grew and with each passing year participants from other countries enrolled in the games. In 1960, the Paralympics were opened to wheelchair-using athletes other than war veterans and in 1976, participation was opened to include all physical disabilities.
Today, the Summer Paralympic Games are divided based on the type of disability and include 22 sports like archery, equestrian, judo, cycling, rowing, table tennis, and volleyball (to name a few). The Paralympics are held in the same country that hosts the Olympics and occurs just after the Olympics finish. In 2016, 68 countries will send participants to the Rio games between September 7 and September 18. This article takes a look at which countries have won the most medals since the beginning of the Paralympics.
Countries With The Most Medals
With a total of 1,939 Paralympic medals, the US takes first place. US athletes have participated in every event since 1960. Trischa Zorn, a US swimmer, holds 55 gold medals making her the most successful athlete in the history of the games. She was born blind and has won such competitions as the 100-meter backstroke, 100-meter butterfly, and 100-meter freestyle (among others).
Great Britain takes second place with a total of 1,557 medals. Given that this was the host for the very first International Wheelchair Games, Great Britain has participated in every Paralympic Games event since its inception. The top gold winner from here is Mike Kenney, a 16-time gold winning swimmer. He has participated in the 25-meter backstroke, 25-meter breaststroke, and the 25-meter freestyle. Kenney suffered a work injury that left him with spinal damage and paralysis. Swimming was part of his therapy.
In third place with 1,323 medals is Germany. German athletes have participated in every Paralympic Games since 1960. Reinhild Moller has won a total of 19 gold medals, the highest number in the country. The majority of her gold, 16 medals, is from her participation in alpine ski racing and 3 medals are from athletics. Her disability occurred at only 3 years old when she was involved in a farming accident that took part of her leg.
Other countries with impressive Paralympic medal counts can be found below.
Significance Of The Paralympic Games
This sporting event is exceptional in that it created opportunity where none existed previously. Rather than continuing to disregard the athletic abilities of individuals with disabilities, Dr. Ludmann brought a voice to athletes who might otherwise not have had one. These games represent determination, equality, and inspiration. They continue to raise awareness of people with disabilities and help foster a more supportive world for those individuals.