The first Paralympic competition was held in 1960, in Rome. Here, 400 athletes (all suffering from spinal cord injuries) competed for victory. Elite-level, physical competing is not only for non-disabled athletes. The Paralympics offer a stage for disabled athletes to participate against others in their category. They get the opportunity to win medals for their country.
A little history lesson
Thanks to Dr. Ludwig Guttmann that we now have the Paralympics. After World War Two, he opened a center for soldiers who had suffered spinal cord injuries in the war. After a short while, sport for rehabilitation evolved into something a little more competitive.
In 1948, Dr. Guttmann arranged the first official competition for athletes in wheelchairs to be held at the Opening Ceremony for the Olympic Games. In 1952, this movement evolved into the Stoke Mandeville Games which later became what we call the Paralympic Games today.
Disability category definitions
The categories under which athletes can compete are pretty stringent. These categories remain the same for both the Summer Paralympics and the Winter Paralympics.
There are six categories defined as follows:
Amputee athletes that have either a total or partial loss of one of their limbs.
Athletes that suffer from cerebral palsy or athletes that have non-progressive brain damage such as having suffered a stroke, brain injury, or cerebral palsy itself.
Athletes that are confined to a wheelchair due to a spinal cord injury or another disability.
Athletes that have a visual impairment, which can be anything from partial impairment or total blindness.
Athletes that have an intellectual disability that creates significant impairment in their ability to function intellectually The sixth category covers athletes that don’t specifically fall under one of the above five. These are for athletes that have multiple sclerosis, dwarfism, or even congenital deformities.
The Paralympics is made up of athletes competing in 22 different sports, and the competition has taken place for over 60 years. On 29 July 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, a milestone in Paralympic history. They involved 16 injured servicemen and women who took part in archery.
The Stoke Mandeville Games later became the Paralympic Games which first took place in Rome, Italy, in 1960 featuring 400 athletes from 23 countries. Since then, they have taken place every four years. In 1976 the first Winter Games in Paralympics history were held in Sweden, and as with the Summer Games, have taken place every four years, and include a Paralympics Opening Ceremony and Paralympics Closing Ceremony.
Since the Summer Games of Seoul, Korea in 1988 and the Winter Games in Albertville, France in 1992 the Games have also taken part in the same cities and venues as the Olympics due to an agreement between the IPC and IOC.