Alberta Athlete Shines at the Junior Blind Olympics
On April 18th, 2009, Justin Wack of St. Albert, Alberta became the first Canadian athlete to participate in the Junior Blind Olympics, held in Los Angeles, California. The event, in its 5th year, offers youth with vision loss between the ages of 6-19 a chance to participate and compete in various activities including shot put, archery, rowing, soccer throw, goal ball, rock climbing, running long jump and the 100-yard dash. Each activity is adapted to ensure that the participants can complete the event as independently as possible.
Wack, age 9 at the time of the competition, competed in the 100-yard dash, running long jump, archery, rowing and the soccer ball throw. He also participated in the goal ball and rock climbing events. At the end of the day, Wack came away with an impressive two golds and two silvers. One of the golds was in the 100-yard dash, which Wack says was his favorite event because he felt safe to run by himself. To complete this event independently, the athletes were given a baton to run with and the baton was attached to a rope.
When asked what the highlight of the day was for him, he replied, “Probably winning the gold in the 100-yard dash, but also meeting all of the new friends”. According to the event summary on their website, over 850 athletes, volunteers, and family members attended the event. Justin’s parents and brother also made the trip to California to support him. Alan Wack, Justin’s father, reported that the event was really well organized. From his experience, he shared that “It was neat to have a level playing field for the kids to compete at”.
When asked what his message would be for other Canadian youth who might like to attend, Justin was quick to mention that the event organizers are eager to have kids from all over compete, however he also had this word of advice for aspiring athletes: “If you are planning on going, you might want to train before you go”.
Great advice Justin, and congrats on your success!
Justin and his family would like to thank the Alberta Sports, Recreation, Parks and Wildlife Foundation for giving him the opportunity to meet and compete with other young athletes. Justin received funding to attend the event through the ASRPWF. Tricia Wack, Justin’s mother, also received support from the ASRPWF to attend the event as a coach. The Wack’s would be happy to share further insights and information about this event with any interested parties. The family can be contacted by submitting an e-mail to our website with your request and your contact information, which will then be forwarded on to the Wack’s.
IDEAS AND STRATEGIES FOR PE TEACHERS:
As mentioned, one of the highlights of the Junior Blind Olympics for Justin was the fact that he could, for the most part, participate independently in each event. Below is a description of the adaptations that were made for each of the events.
100-yard dash: As mentioned above, the competitors were able to run independently using a baton that was attached to a rope. Each runner had their own lane and each lane had its own rope stretched tautly between two poles. The rope was 50 yards in length and the runners were to run out and back to complete the race. At the turn around, there was a short rubber buffer for the baton to hit, rather than hitting the pole. Each runner knew they had crossed the finish line when they ran through a swim noodle, held at chest height by a volunteer.
Running long jump: Similar to the 100-yard dash, this event used a taut rope alongside the running lane and a baton for the runner to grasp. When the runner reaches the end of the rope, this indicates the beginning of the sandpit. Upon reaching this point, the competitor must release the baton and jump. After the distance is measured, the competitors were each allowed 2 or 3 additional attempts.
Rowing: For this event, the competitors rowed on rowing machines. Each competitor rowed for a certain length of time and the distance recorded by the machine was then compared across competitors.
Shot put/Soccer ball throw: The competitors competed in either shot put or soccer ball throw, depending on their age. Younger children, such as Justin, participated in the soccer ball throw. The competitors were given information as to their positioning and the proper direction for aiming, as well as provided with a tactile line to stand behind.
Archery: This event had 4 or 5 different targets set up against hay bales. Each competitor was paired with a volunteer for this event. The competitors were shown how to use the bow and arrow and received verbal assistance to help position them in the direction of the target. Auditory beepers were used as an additional cue to inform the competitors of the general direction of the targets. Each competitor shot 3 arrows and a points system was assigned to evaluate the competitors’ performance.
Goal ball: This game is specifically designed for individuals who are visually impaired; therefore no specific adaptations were needed.
Rock climbing: Again, this sport requires very few adaptations for individuals who are visually impaired; therefore the competitors were able to participate independently.
A big thank you to Tricia Wack, Justin’s mother, for providing us with the above information.