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Leah, Rachel, Harrison, Abby

Paralympics


The Paralympics is a multi-sport event for people with physical and visual disabilities, with the purpose of "emphasizing their athletic achievements, not their disability." The Paralympics started when, during the Summer Olympics of 1948, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann (from Stoke Mandeville Hospital) arranged some competitions for World War II Veterans with spinal cord injuries. In 1960 in Rome, the first official Paralympics were held, and were no longer just for war veterans. Then, in 1976 the Paralympics were then open to people with different disabilities.

The Paralympians get to interact with the able-bodied athletes and train with them in the Olympic training facility. They get all the same benefits as the able-bodied athletes, but the Paralympics are not as widely followed. In ways this seems like a benefit, because they get more privacy.
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Classification


The Paralympics is very similar to the regular Olympics. It takes place in the same location as the able-bodied Olympics every two years, alternating between Summer and Winter Olympics. Almost all the sports from the "regular" or able-bodied Olympics are represented; they are modified for people with impairments.
The athletes are classified into groups from which they compete. An athlete would only compete within their own class. The classifications depend on their level of impairment – visual or physical, and how much movement/ability they have. Tucker explained this a little bit during his visit; he is an S12 swimmer. You can see what this means on this page from the US Paralympics website.

Tucker Dupree

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Tucker's Website

We also have our own page about Tucker

Tucker Dupree is now a 20-year old swimmer in the Paralympics. He was 17 when he started losing his vision. It took a few months of talking to doctors, but eventually Tucker was diagnosed with Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON), a disease that affects the central vision, or more scientifically, the degeneration of the retinal ganglion cells. The retinal ganglion cells are a type of neuron located near the inner surface of the retina of the eye. The disease can be carried by women, but only physically affects males. In Tucker’s case, his mother was a carrier and she passed it on to him. He was unaware he had the disease until he was 17, when it started affecting his vision in his left eye. He still graduated from Garner Magnet High school, very high in his class, but decided to go to Wake Tech, so he could be closer to home. He also felt that the swimming scholarships he received at other colleges were something he would not be able to fulfill to the expectation of the school because of his vision.

Tucker Dupree has acomplished so much in his life, even many things I don't think he would have been able to do without his vision loss. This is a video of Tucker on the local news: http://www.wral.com/news/local/video/2941404/

He participated in the 2008 Beijing Paralympic games, and came very close to a medal placement. This is his profile: http://results.beijing2008.cn/WRMP/ENG/BIO/Athlete/1/1200761.shtml

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This is the official Beijing Paralympic games website: http://en.paralympic.beijing2008.cn/index.shtml

Personal Views and Experiences


I found Tucker Dupree's story really compelling, because he seemed really positive about his disease. I also liked how his father told him (when they first found out he had Leber's) that he could make it a mountain in his life, or just a speed bump, and now he classifies his disease as just a "speed bump" in his life. This determination was really inspiring and encouraging. I found it easier to connect to him, because he was in high school when he started going blind, and is now only 20.
-- Rachel L.


I want to share a personal experience that really changed my outlook on people who are disabled. When I was in 5th grade and I lived in SC, I volunteered for a professional wheelchair tennis tournament. I’m a serious tennis player, so when I volunteered for this tournament I honestly expected it to be really boring, and I thought they would be bad at tennis. I quickly learned that I was wrong. It turned out that they were all really good at tennis and their movement on the court amazed me. They were also really appreciative and thanked me many times for all the work I did. I look back at that experience and the athlete’s determination and skill still amazes me. I learned that we need to have more respect for the disabled because they do exactly what we do, except they have to work much harder.
-- Harrison A.



Last summer, Nolan, an eight year old boy with spina bifida joined my summer swim team and at the end of the summer they posted an article about him and the Junior Paralympics that took place last May. Nolan is also involved with Bridge II Sports along with Andrew (who is also mentioned in the article). I often saw him using crutches around the pool deck. Swimming is often the preferred sport for people with disabilities because it provides independence and comfort from the water resistance on all sides of the body. The article talks about the challenges kids with disabilities face with making friends and staying active.
-- Lauren P.