Kiel Week still counts on inclusion
The chairmanship of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) did put 23 types of sport onto the list for the next evaluation period for the admittance to the Paralympic sports program for Paris 2024. But sailing is no part of that. After Tokyo, the sailing sport will again not be at the start of the Paralympics 2024 in Paris.
The entire sailing community was disappointed, also the organizers in Kiel, who in return do count on inclusion in the sailing sport. "I am upset by the decision of the IPC and it is completely incomprehensible. We will continue contributing to making sure that sailing will again be part of the program of the Paralympics in the future and that’s why the 2.4 class will remain a fixed part of the Kiel Week", said the Head of Organization of the Kiel Week regattas Dirk Ramhorst. "There is hardly any other sport offering that many possibilities for inclusion than sailing", added Ramhorst.
The excitement about the perfect integration of the Para World Sailing Championship into the Kiel Week 2017 caused quite a stir. Kim Andersen, President of World Sailing, John Petersson, member of the Governing Board of the International Paralympic Committee/IPC, Julius Beucher, Chairman of the German Association for Disabled Sports/DBS as well as representatives of Eurosaf did overwhelm Kiel with compliments. And this year, the Eurosaf Para Sailing Championships in the classes 2.4 mR and Hansa 303 with 61 participants from 15 nations did follow during the Kiel Week. Inclusion fits perfectly well into the concept of Kiel. "We have ideal conditions for that. That’s why inclusion has been a fixed part of the Kiel Week for years", stated the Head of Organization of the Kiel Week regattas. The Paralympic classes were admitted for the first time to the Kiel Week in 2002, since 2008, the class 2.4mR is being sailed as an open class.
"It is one of our biggest goals, that sailing will again be a part. There is no other sport equally well suitable for inclusion", stated Kim Andersen looking at the Paralympics. Sailors with disabilities competing against sailors without disabilities, female sailors competing against male sailors, all is possible in the 2.4mR. According to the highest representative of the sailing sport, this strong signal being sent from Kiel to the IPC could not have been missed. "Many thanks to Germany, many thanks to Kiel.“
The initiative of World Sailing for the Paralympic program was not just about the reintegration into the Paralympic sports program, said Andersen, but also about a deeply entrenched belief that integration is part of the sailing sport. "We need an inclusive society with fully barrier-free environments enabling people with disabilities to do sports and experience safe and fair involvement." Kiel can offer all that in the barrier-free marina in Schilksee.
But despite the signals from Kiel and a good World Championship in Sheboygan/USA the sailing sport fell by the Paralympic wayside. Like golf, karate, para dancing and football in an electric wheelchair, the sailing sport also could not meet the criteria in several areas. "We continuously worked on making sure, that sailing meets the IPC criteria. Everyone at World Sailing is deeply disappointed about the decision from the IPC", said World Sailing CEO Andy Hunt. Epsecially disappointing is the fact, that the IPC insists on the division into handicap classes in their competitions. The sailing sport is special here, which should put in a good word for the sport. "Sailing is one of the most capacious sports and offers competitiveness to all athletes independent from their classification. All sailing athletes are acting on a common level playing field, and this is what have stressed again and again in front of the IPC", said Hunt in the press conference of World Sailing.
The decision not to consider sailing for 2024 did struck in the middle of the World Championships of the Paralympic classes in the USA. Heiko Kroeger, two-times Paralympic medal winner was shocked. In a video message on Facebook the sailor from Hamburg stated: „Our revival as a Paralympic sport has been dumped today. We will definitely not be a part in 2024. No-one knows today, what will be in 2028. A rather bad message for the sailing sport and also for the topic inclusion, because I still think that sailing is the most inclusive sports after all. Now we have to digest that first." Heiko Kroeger was highly committed to make Kiel the inclusion site of the sailing sport.
World Sailing now wants to meet as soon as possible with the IPC leadership to question the details of the decision and the analysis by the IPC management team. In the last years, much was achieved in the development of Para World Sailing and World Sailing wants to continue to offer a program for sailors - on a national and international level. At the last annual conference of World Sailing in Mexico, it was decided to integrate the Para World Championships into the Worlds of the Olympic disciplines taking place every four years from 2022 onward.
World Sailing and Kiel are continuing to work together for the same course for the good of inclusion. But artificially created divisions into classes of handicap levels, which are not necessary in the sailing sport, will sure not be the solution.
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Kerstin Graupner, Pressesprecherin