Disability Gymnastics | Gymnastics For Those With Disabilities

 Gymnastics For Those With Disabilities


Countless articles have been written about world class gymnasts, and there are loads of videos for us to repeatedly watch their flawless performances, but what about those not so perfect gymnasts? What about the ones that are missing arms or legs? What about the ones that are blind or deaf? What about the ones with cerebral palsy or Down syndrome? All too often we just sweep them under the carpet and keep the news of their struggles and victories confined to their handicapped community.


My daughter is a competitive gymnast and trains in the same gym with two young men that have disabilities. So often I watch them and find myself making comments like: “Aren’t they remarkable,” or “Look how hard they work”. I marvel at the fact that despite all odds these disabled adults have demonstrated many talents and inspire the other gymnasts in our club to challenge their perceptions of possibility. Like all the others, they also train long hours and sweat and bend themselves into muscle-straining positions and hold their poses for long  lengths of time.


If real achievement were to be measured not only by fame and fortune, but instead by determination and courage, then the gymnasts with disabilities would be the real champions.  It doesn’t matter to them if they win or lose, so why don’t we give more room to those with disabilities? Why don’t we give them more of an opportunity to be accepted, and give them the dignity they deserve.


Sports are of great importance in everyone’s life, but it is vital to somebody with a disability. The reason is because of the rehabilitative impact practicing a sport has not just on the human body, but also on mainstreaming individuals with a handicap into the community.


The number of people who have disabilities and are involved in gymnastics is slowly increasing all over the world. The Special Olympics movement is responsible for organizing the sport of gymnastics for athletes with a disability. Special needs gymnastics incorporates flexibility, artistry, and strength. Competitions are provided for both men and women in both the artistic and rhythmic events. Male and female athletes can compete all around (in all of the events) or they can specialize in one or more. As in all Special Olympics sports, athletes are grouped in competition divisions according to ability level, age and gender.


Disability gymnastics was first introduced and recognized as a Special Olympics sport at the World Summer Games in 1972. Forty years later more than 200 artistic gymnasts and nearly 100 rhythmic gymnasts compete.


I’d like to share these inspirational and touching videos with you. The next time you or your little Miss Gymnast come home from a competition with your tail between your legs because of a fall from the beam or because so and so didn’t deserve to win, give yourself a quick conscience check, and remember  the motto of the special needs athletes: “Let me be win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt”.


Thanks to my sister Heidi, and the gymnasts: Leonardo,  Simone, and Agus for giving me the inspiration to finally put into words the way I feel about these special people and the way that they have touched my life.


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