Wheelchair roller skiing

18 Oct

This might help somebody. Saw two guys out on wheelchairs on the bicycle path next to the water at Frognerstranda. They were doing the wheelchair equivalent of classic style rollerskiing. They had short, standard issue cross country poles with carbide steel rollerski spikes on the tips. And they were mobile. They didn’t look at all like prototypical wheelchair athletes. To be frank, they looked old and out of shape. But they were effortlessly cruising along at a good clip.

I looked around on the Internet and found one image of someone in a wheelchair with ski poles. Seems like no one outside of Scandinavia has thought of this. Here in Norway it’s doesn’t take much of a stretch of imagination to hit on the idea. The streets and bike paths are crawling with rollerskiers making that annoying tack…tack….tack sound.

Most classic style roller skiers only use their arms anyhow, just double poling. They want to avoid programming weird unconscious muscle reflex expectations that will ruin their technique: a classic style roller ski stops instantly on the “kick” which never happens with wax on snow.

So you can get by just fine with arm (and abdominal) power only. In fact, that has been the revolution in thinking that has made classic style cross country ski racing so boring to watch. Most classic races look like a herd of bobbing penguins double poling endlessly away.

The funny thing is that the recognition that arm power is faster than leg power was born from a handicap of sorts: one year a guy with a broken leg nearly won the 90 km Swedish Vasaloppet. Now rowing champions with no cross-country skiing experience whatsoever have started entering the race and doing well.

But I think all this is probably good news for the wheelchair bound. If you know someone who gets around in one of those things, you might do them a favor to talk to them about this. Even though rollerskiing is more marginal elsewhere than in Scandinavia the required gear can be picked up just about anywhere and doesn’t cost much either.

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