Sailing Denied Paralympic Games, but the Sport Continues To Grow
Ever since sailing was dropped from the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2020, World Sailing has been trying to get it reinstated to the Olympic program. Starting in 2021 with the campaign #BacktheBid, the aim was to secure the opportunity for a new generation of sailors to compete in the Olympics. But despite again meeting a closed door and being denied inclusion in the 2024 L.A. Paralympic Games, Para Sailing continues to grow as World Sailing vows to continue its support.
In a press release, World Sailing CEO David Graham said, “We fully respect the verdict of the IPC and recognise the difficulty the IPC Board faced throughout this process.
“However, we must also acknowledge that this is an extremely disappointing day for our whole sport and, in particular, for Para Sailors around the world. Despite this setback, our commitment to our Para Sailors, to the continued growth of Para Sailing, and to the wider Para Sport movement will only grow stronger.
“We know a life on water unlocks so many opportunities for disabled people, we know how inclusive Para Sailing is, and we are determined that Para Sailing will continue to go from strength to strength.”
There are now 41 nations on five continents active in Para Sailing, and over 630 active Para Sailors registered with World Sailing.
World Sailing launched its Para Sailing Development Program (PDP) in 2017 to empower sailors and coaches by increasing participation in all regions. During this time, over 210 sailors and coaches from 39 countries on six continents have completed the program. In 2022 alone, programs in the Sultanate of Oman, Singapore, Japan and Italy — where Para Kiteboarding was featured for the first time — saw a total of 40 sailors and 31 coaches from 14 nations, including Cambodia, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Malta represented for the first time.
Upon receiving the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) verdict, Executive Director of US Olympic Sailing Paul Cayard responded with an open letter:
“US Sailing is deeply disappointed to learn, today, that the International Paralympic Committee has voted not to reinstate Sailing in the 2028 Paralympic Games in Los Angeles.
“US Sailing was a strong supporter of ‘Back the Bid,’ the Worldwide movement to reinstate Sailing in the Paralympics in Los Angeles, 2028, and would like to express our deep appreciation to the athletes, volunteers, and supporters who put their heart and soul into this initiative.
“While the USA Paralympic Teams have had great success over the years, their inclusion in the Paralympics, most importantly, has served as inspiration and motivation for so many in our disabled sailing community.
“Worldwide efforts to support Para Sailing are not subsiding or weakening, and US Sailing looks forward to welcoming Para Sailors to the Allianz Sailing World Championships for the first time ever this year.
“US Sailing will continue to advocate for and support disabled sailors through many different agendas, including inclusion in the Paralympics for 2032 in Brisbane.”
Para Sailor Jim Thweatt, who had worked to support the sport’s Olympic bid, circulated an email this morning in which he wrote, “The goal has never been for me to just have Para Sailing reinstated. Instead to strengthen and support inclusive sailing around the world. With the support of US Sailing and World Sailing we are continuing to do that.”
Jim went on to list a few of the new Para Sailing regattas scheduled on the West Coast this year: three events at the Coronado YC, San Diego; monthly training and the Herb Meyer Regatta with the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors (BAADS.org) in San Francisco; and twice-monthly one-design racing and learning to sail at the Lake Washington Sailing Club in West Sacramento.
“Also we have the World Hansa Championships in Portugal in October. This is going to be a very exciting year for Para Sailing/and inclusive sailing,” Jim concluded.
You can learn more about Para Sailing through the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors and World Sailing.
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