January 3 – Sliding sports could added to the Paralympic sport programme by the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games, if a proposal by Bob Balk, the chairman of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletes' Council, is accepted.
The 45-year-old American, who represented his country at seven editions of the Paralympics, recently attended the first international sliding school for athletes with a disability in Utah which he views as a key step in trying to get bobsleigh and skeleton into the 2018 Paralympics.
"For standing, ambulatory athletes, they just need a sled and a helmet and go for it," said Balk, who competed in two Paralympic Games in track and field at Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney 2000 and five consecutive Paralympic Winter Games in Nordic skiing, including Vancouver in 2010.
"But for Para athletes and bilateral amputees, we are going to have to start not running.
"For Para athletes, we've basically created a support for your lower legs so it'll run on the ice behind the sled.
"I can kind of keep things together and therefore it makes the sport possible for disabled athletes and therefore a potential future Paralympic sport.
"Hopefully we can get onto the programme in the future it all works out and hopefully as soon as the 2018 Paralympics."
There are just four sports on the sports programme at the Winter Paralympic Games with sledge hockey, wheelchair curling, alpine skiing and nordic skiing/biathlon currently the only sports eligible for disabled athletes.
The IPC is keen to get more sports involved and the International Bobsleigh and Tobogganing Federation (FIBT), has started to take a more proactive role in opening up the disciplines to athletes with a disability.
Alan Morasch, the vice-president of Alberta Bobsleigh and the man heading the fledgling adaptive programme at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, says that there is certainly a chance of getting the sports on the Paralympic programme if the right steps are taken.
"If these first international sliding school for athletes with a disability are positive, the plan will be to have a late more schools in Europe," said Morasch.
"I believe the IPC will do everything it can to get the sliding sports added for the Paralympics in 2018.
"We hope to have a World Championships by 2013 but even if there is not, the 2018 Paralympics are still realistic.
"If we have enough people sliding and get other nations involved in the next two or three years, we have a real chance of getting sliding sport on the international Paralympic scene for sure."
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