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seeks to help disabled water skiers
It might be hard to believe, but an athlete who is blind can stick a jump off of a 5-foot ramp. And a skier, able to hold the handle only with his or her wrists, can perform with grace and precision. Then there are skiers with paraplegia who sit on a ski doing a flip, or skiers with amputated arms or legs tackling the able-bodied slalom course with ease.
This is the world of disabled waterskiing, a sport enjoyed by thousands of people all across the US and the world.
Since the first world trophy in 1987, water skiing has been adapted so that physically disabled athletes can participate and compete. Back then, there were 40 participants from 7 countries with Great Britain winning the team title ahead of the USA & Australia. Today hundreds of people compete in tournaments that offer slalom, tricks and jumping events for vision impaired individuals (blind or partially sighted), multiplegics (paraplegics and quadriplegics), leg amputees (above and below knee), arm amputees and athletes with both arm and leg disabilities. The skiers in the latter three categories compete with the same water ski equipment used by able-bodied athletes and have the option of using a prosthesis.
Vision impaired athletes do not need special gear, however they are guided by different skier in the jumping event, though they must be let go before they hit the ramp and use audible signals rather than buoys in the slalom course.
Multiplegic athletes use a sit ski, which is larger than the ski of an able-bodied skier and includes a cage similar to that used in snow skiing.
A narrower slalom course than that set out for able-bodied competitors is an option for those whose disability is greater such as quadriplegics and athletes with both arm and leg disabilities.
One of the organizations that makes this all possible is The Water Skiers with Disabilities Association, a division of USA Water Ski, the national governing body of organized water skiing in the United States. USA Water Ski has a dual mission of promoting the growth and development of recreational water skiing, and organizing and governing the sport of competitive water skiing. Among other services, they provide water ski instructor certification, learn to ski clinics, officials’ education and junior skiers’ development. For disabled water skiers, they help look for clubs to incorporate its small group of elite athletes into an able-bodied record tournament using basically the same facilities and the same rules. The WSDA’s annual major tournament involves around 25 athletes, mostly two- and three-event skiers.
It’s groups like the WSDA that are doing the truly good work in this world, helping individuals who might have otherwise believed they would never be able to experience the exhilarating speed and the heart pounding thrills of the sport of water skiing.
2010 Captain Kujo All rights reserved.