An unprecedented 7.48% of this year’s Olympic athletes are completely blind – a number that has risen significantly from 2.5% just 10 years ago. With the visually impaired suddenly excelling at winter sports, Scientists at the University of Bath in the UK have begun studying the phenomenon.
“We quickly came to realize that these athletes were typically competing in events involving equipment similar to the canes that many visually impaired people use while walking from place to place,” said Senior Researcher Liam Fahkenuews. “We’re talking events like alpine skiing and cross-country skiing where poles are involved.”
At first, the scientists were unclear as to where or how visually impaired people were doing their training for such events – as there are no known recruiting efforts geared toward blind athletes for the Winter Olympic Games.
“Delving further into our study, we found out that 95% of people seen in public doing Pole – or Nordic – walking are, in fact, blind,” stated Fahkenuews. “We still have no idea why the other 5-or-so percent do it. They look ridiculous and they certainly aren’t athletes.”
Historically speaking, the visually impaired have always been in the Olympics since the games began in 1924; however, it wasn’t until recent years that they began participating in events voluntarily. In fact, up until the 1978 Winter Olympics, every bobsled team consisted of 2 blind people from each country that were tricked into sitting in the sleds – whereupon they were nudged off and down the mountain – reaching speeds of up to 93mph.
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