This past weekend, 25-26 October, saw a very eager group of athletes compete on the most elite of levels at the 2008 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Wheelchair Dance Sport World Championships in the capital of Belarus. Beginning with a very colourful Opening Ceremony, which had athletes included in an extravagant parade, the festivities of the first day enlivened each audience member.
Following the parade, the traditional raising of the Paralympic Flag, the sounds of the Paralympic Anthem, and the various dance presentations brought not only the spectators, but all athletes and officials to an appreciative silence. Many of the countries have reported that this was the best Wheelchair Dance Sport World Championships that they have ever experienced.
The eight events that took place included the Duo Standard (Class 1 and 2), Duo Latin (Class 1 and 2), Combi Standard (Class 1 and 2) and Combi Latin (Class 1 and 2). The competition, which was staged inside the Football Hall of Minsk, had a total of 137 athletes from 17 countries around the world.
Russian dancers Aleksey Fotin and Ruzanna Kazaryan won the gold medal in the Duo Standard (class 1) event, followed by Eduardo Nunez Medellin and Maria Antonia Pena Anguiano from Mexico and Andrei Tsibulski and Hanna Siratsiuk from Belarus. Those three couples also dominated the Duo Latin (class 1) event and took home the medals in the same order. In class 2 of the Duo Standard event European Champions Konstantin Sosunov and Elena Shilyaeva from Russia took home the gold medal. The silver medal was won by Polish couple Norbert Kaminski and Katrzyna Bloch and Pawel Karpinski and Joanna Reda (POL) were awarded the bronze medal in this event. They added a silver medal to their record in the Duo Latin (class 2) event. The gold medal was awarded to Ukrainian dancers Ivan Sivak and Nadiia Verbytska, the bronze medal was awarded to Andrey Antonov and Alexandra Berdnik from Russia.
Marcin Blazejewski and Iwona Wydra from Poland won the Combi Latin (class 1) event, followed by Peter Vidasic and Helena Kasicka (SVK) and Valeriy Bevzyuk and Olena Iaremenko (UKR). The Slovakian couple won another medal in the Combi Standard (class 1) competition. This time they came in third place, leaving the gold medal to Oleksandr Ivanov and Illona Slugovina (UKR) and the silver medal to Aliaksei Zukhtsikau and Veranika Kasach (BLR). Polish dancer Kamil Kuran together with his partner Nadine Kinczel won the gold medal in the Combi Latin (class 2) event, followed by Ihar Kisialiou and Hanna Charchakova from Belarus and Maxim Sedakov and Svetlana Kukushkina from Russia. Kisialiou and Charchakova also managed to win the only gold medal for the host country, by winning the Combi Standard (class 2) event. Alexander Lyapin and Irina Gordeeva (RUS) won silver and Rafal Skiera and Monika Chojnacka (POL) won bronze.
Grethe Andersen, IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport Technical Committee Chairperson, was impressed with the work of the Local Organizing Committee, which consisted of the Belarusian Federation of Wheelchair Dance Sport and The Rhythmic Sportiv Gymnastics. She said that with the support of the Belarusian Ministry of Sports and Tourism and the National Paralympic Committee of Belarus, an exceptional event had taken place.
“This sixth IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport World Championships were successfully staged with so many well-trained athletes,” Andersen said. “Minsk welcomed the dancers and the officials with open arms and now has a legacy of its own. Without the help of all respective parties and especially all the volunteers, this would not have been possible.”
Following the agreement of a closer co-operation with the International Dance Sport Federation (IDSF), IDSF Secretary General Marco Sietas attended the World Championships, as well as the WDS Sport Forum on 26 October. The forum had participating National Paralympic Committees and the IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport Technical Committee discuss the current governance and the future of Wheelchair Dance Sport.
Wheelchair Dance Sport involves athletes with a physical disability that affects the lower limbs. Wheelchair dancers may participate in “combi”-style dancing with an able-bodied (standing) partner or duo-dance for two wheelchair users together. Standard dances include the waltz, tango, Viennese waltz, slow foxtrot and quickstep. Latin-American dances include the samba, cha-cha-cha, rumba, paso doble and jive. There are also Formation dances for four, six or eight couples dancing in formation.