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Paralympic Cycling was developed as a sport for blind athletes. When blind athletes competed in cycling, they used tandem bicycles. Advancements in technology have opened the sport to wider ranges of athletes with other disabilities. Along with blind athletes, athletes with cerebral palsy, amputations or other physical disabilities now competing in this sport.
There are two disciplines, Road, and Track Cycling. Road Cycling was first introduced as a Paralympic Sport in 1984. Track Cycling first took place at the Atlanta Games in 1996. During the Road Race all riders start together, and the first person to cross the finish line is declared the winner. The time trial is different to the road race in that the riders set off at intervals, and the winner is the rider with the fastest time over the course.
Depending on disability, the athlete uses either a bicycle, tricycle, tandem or a hand cycle. A tandem is used by athletes with visual impairments. A hand cycle is used by athletes with amputations; they are hand powered. A tricycle is used by athletes whose balance would make them unable to race on a two wheeled bicycle. A bicycle is used by all other athletes, often with modifications.
Paralympic Cycling has 12 classes of disability. Tandem has one class, hand cycle has four classes, tricycle has two classes and bicycle has five. The lower the class number of the athletes, the greater the impact of their impairment. Cyclists must wear protective helmets, the colour of which reflects their class.
In 2011 Irishmen Colin Lynch and Mark Rohan won gold at the Paralympic World Championships. Colin Lynch won gold in the C2 time trial, while Mark Rohan won gold in the H1 hand-cycle final. Mark Rohan is Ireland’s most successful Paracyclist winning the road race in 2010 World Championships and all four events during the 2011 World Cup series.
In the 2012 Summer Paralympics the Irish competitors that medalled are Mark Rohan, James Brown, and Catherine Walsh. Mark Rohan won gold in both the H1 hand cycle time trial and H1 hand cycle road race. James Brown won bronze in the men's time trial B road cycling event, and Catherine Walsh won bronze in the B time trial and silver in the B individual pursuit.
There are many health benefits associated with cycling, including building strength and improving cardio fitness. Cycling not only uses the legs but every single part of the body is involved. Cycling increases the muscle tone, helps improve general muscle function, helps strengthen leg muscles, and helps with the mobility of your hip and knee joints. Cycling builds stamina, improves cardio-vascular fitness, and burns up calories. Steady cycling burns up approximately 300 calories per hour.
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