Israel sent 25 athletes to the 2020 Paralympics held in Tokyo from August 24 to September 5, 2021. Some of the athletes were accompanied by their guide dogs.
One of the athletes is Roni Ohayon, who is competing in a sport that is unique to the Paralympics called Goalball. It is similar to soccer, specifically designed for players with visual blindness by playing with a ball with bells inside. All players wear blindfolds as part of the game.
Team Israel won the silver medal in goalball at the European Championship held in Germany in 2019. The schedule for the team in Tokyo can be found here.
Roni’s dog Rudy was trained at the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind. It is the only accredited guide dog center in the entire Middle East. Each year, the center provides roughly 35 Guide dogs for the visually-impaired and 35 Companion dogs for Israelis suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD.
Many of the athletes trained for competition at the Israel Sports Center for the Disabled. Founded in 1960, the ISCD is a home away from home to around 2,500 Israelis of all ages, where the unique merits of sports are utilized to strengthen body, spirit and mind.
The Paralympics were founded by Dr. Ludwig Guttmann (1899-1980), a Jewish doctor who escaped Nazi Germany to England. He revolutionized the research and treatment of spinal cord injuries including rehabilitation. “It occurred to me that it would have been a serious omission not to include sport in the rehabilitation of handicapped people,” he said, as his efforts began small alongside the Olympics that were held in London in 1948. In 1960, the games went international, and since the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and 1992 Winter games in France, the Paralympics have been held in the same city as the Olympics.
The 2020/1 Tokyo Olympics gathered the worst television ratings ever but hopefully people around the world will tune in to watch the incredible athletes (and dogs) of the Paralympics.
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