As Para sport development continues to progress across untouched parts of the world, the Paralympic Movement also saw a strong emphasis this year in the development across genders. 2017 saw the first women’s Para ice hockey training camp held, as well as a wheelchair basketball camp for women in Asia and Oceania. The stronger push, and action, for developing women in Para sport enters at No. 48 on the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Top 50 Moments of 2017.
While Para ice hockey is traditionally a male-dominated sport, there are plenty of women actively competing. The training camp held in October in Chuncheon, South Korea, brought together 30 athletes and coaches from around the world, not just to work on skills but also find ways to increase the number of women playing the sport.
Participants came from Armenia, Australia, Canada, Croatia, Finland, France, Great Britain, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the USA.
The event was part of the ‘Actualising the Dream’ project delivered by the IPC’s development arm the Agitos Foundation, in partnership with PyeongChang 2018.
Erica Mitchell, captain of the USA women’s Para ice hockey team, said: “In 2007, I had tried out to the men’s USA team and find out I could not play at that level because I was a female. We had nowhere to go so we ended up making a women’s USA team. Now we are here having these workshops and hopefully we could be in the Paralympics soon.
“This is definitely one of the best camps I’ve ever been to, and it is definitely going to put us in the right direction.”
The development of women in wheelchair basketball, particularly in the Asian-Oceania region also received a significant boost.
Sixty-four women aged between 17 and 51 took part in a development camp in Chon Buri, Thailand.
The initiative, which was also supported by the Agitos Foundation, Asian Paralympic Committee and World Wheelchair Express Foundation, was well received and saw women from a range of countries take part, including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Jordan, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Nepal, Oman and Thailand.
The sport also saw history when Iran fielded its first women’s team at the 2017 International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) Asia Oceania Championships, held in Beijing, China in October. Those Championships also saw Afghanistan’s women play and win in their first overseas competition.