Technology brings skaters together for first inclusive Virtual World Championship

Inclusive Skating, the organisation that encourages all skaters to learn to skate with their families and carers in a supportive environment as well as staging competitions for skaters with additional challenges, has turned to technology to stage an inclusive Virtual World Championship.

The organisation has been working with Sheffield-based sports technology provider Sport:80 to increase accessibility to competitive ice skating for those with visual, physical or intellectual impairments or those who suffer with conditions like severe anxiety or epilepsy that can make it difficult for them to attend in-person location events.

Now, though, the organisation has successfully conducted its first fully Virtual World Championships. Over 100 participants from countries including Australia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Russia, UAE, Sweden, USA and the home nations of the UK took part. The event was conducted entirely via video submission with remote judging and built on the success of the first Inclusive Skating Virtual Events developed during lockdown.

The technology has facilitated this in several ways.

“Ordinarily, for something like the Paralympic Winter Games, participants would register directly through their individual National Governing Body,” explains Margarita Sweeney-Baird, Founder and Chair of Inclusive Skating. “But this means that the event organisers don’t necessarily have access to the safety requirements or needs of each individual skater. Some skaters have attended events through this route only to find on arrival that they are no longer classified sufficiently to take part.

The Sport:80 technology has addressed this. So, for example, one participant in the Virtual World Championships – was a 9-year-old girl from Australia – was able to register directly to Inclusive Skating via the Sport:80 platform. She submitted a video, though further evidence was needed for her specific individual needs. Following a Zoom call with Inclusive Skating, her needs were assessed and, based on this, it was confirmed that she would receive an additional 5% added to her scores. This now appears on her world ranking and, whilst the exact nature of her needs remains confidential, her requirements and further evidence can be updated at any time.

“This event and its use of technology is breaking down barriers and enhancing inclusivity in the sport and we couldn’t be happier to be involved in this journey,” adds Gary Hargraves, CEO of Sport:80.

In total, skaters participated in over 180 events in singles, pairs, ice-dance, figures, synchro, compulsory elements, and free-skating elements with medal winners receiving a message from Olympic Ice Dance legends Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean.

“Congratulations to everyone who took part,” said Dean. “There’s been some amazing routines and competitors and you’ve all done amazing well. But also, a big thanks to everyone who has assisted them, from parents to friends to family members

Jayne Torvill called the participants “inspirations”, adding:

“If somebody thinks they couldn’t do it, you’re the example that you can do it if you put in the hard work and have a passion to do it.

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