The Americans who won Paralympic snooker medals
filed on Wednesday, August 29, 2012. 13:44 PT/USA
As the London 2012 Paralympic Games get underway, SnookerUSA.com reflects on the time when snooker was included in the program of Paralympic summer sports and the American players who won medals.
In 1944, at the request of the British Government, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann opened a spinal injuries center at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Great Britain, and in time, rehabilitation sport evolved to recreational sport and then to competitive sport.
On July 29, 1948, the day of the Opening Ceremony of the London 1948 Olympic Games, Dr. Guttmann organized the first competition for wheelchair athletes which he named the Stoke Mandeville Games. They involved 16 injured servicemen and women who took part in Archery.
In 1952, Dutch ex-servicemen joined the Movement and the International Stoke Mandeville Games were founded.
These Games later became the Paralympic Games which first took place in Rome, Italy, in 1960 featuring 400 athletes from 23 countries. The word "Paralympic" derives from the Greek preposition "para" (beside or alongside) and the word "Olympic". Its meaning is that Paralympics are the parallel Games to the Olympics and illustrates how the two movements exist side-by-side.
It seems apparent that because of the strong British roots in the Paralympic Games, snooker was a natural choice to be one of the eight sports that were included in those first Games in 1960.
In the 1964 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, F. Vacera of the United States won the silver medal in the Men's Snooker Event paraplegics - open, with Great Britain's Michael Shelton taking the gold medal.
In the 1972 Paralympic Games in Heidelberg, Germany, United States player Brannin competed in the Men's Snooker Event paraplegic but failed to medal, but in the Toronto Paralympic Games of 1976, the United States Rod Vleiger won silver in the Men's Snooker Event A-C, with Denver Branum and William Johnson failing to medal in the Men's Snooker Event 2-5 classification.
The 1984 Paralympic Games were jointly hosted by New York City and Stoke Mandeville, with the snooker events being staged in Great Britain.
The 1988 Paralympic Games were the first Paralympics in 24 years to take place in the same city as the Olympic Games - a practice which continues to this day. They took place in Seoul, South Korea, and this was the first time the term "Paralympic" came into official use. Snooker made its final appearance on the Paralympic Games program of events at these Games.