VIDEO: Faster, Higher, Further | Sport Explained: Para Athletics | Paralympic Games * 2023
VIDEO: Faster, Higher, Further | Sport Explained: Para Athletics | Paralympic Games * 2023

Paralympics Games

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.


The Courage of Paralympians

A Paralympian signifies courage, hard work, sacrifice, and inspiration. Both winter and summer para-athletes have amazing talents. Blind Paralympians have to go the extra mile to pursue their passion for sports.

A Paralympian is an athlete who competes in the Paralympic games. They’re athletes that have bodily differences and different types of disabilities. A Paralympian is courageous. They have heart and soul to the core. Paralympians overcome obstacles that the average person will never understand.

It’s hard enough to play a sport at an elite level. But when you have a physical disability, it’s 10 times harder. Every star athlete makes sacrifices for the sport they play.

Paralympic’s athletes compete in six different disability groups; amputee, cerebral palsy, visual impairment, spinal cord injuries, intellectual disability, and “les autres” (athletes whose disability does not fit into one of the other categories, including dwarfism). Within each group, athletes are further divided into classes on the basis of the type and extent of their disabilities. Individual athletes may be reclassified at later competitions if their physical status changes.

Paralympic games classes

Winter Paralympian:

The Winter Paralympics occur between every Summer Paralympics. There are six sports in the Winter Paralympic Games:

  • Para Ice Hockey
  • Snowboarding
  • Biathlon
  • Wheelchair Curling
  • Alpine Skiing
  • Cross Country Skiing

A total of 736 athletes will compete in 78 medal events. Thirty-nine of them are in the men’s competition and 34 in the women’s. There will also be four mixed-gender events.

Summer Paralympian:

The Summer Paralympic Games are significantly larger than the winter. There are 22 different sports with over 4,500 para-athletes representing 163 different countries. The sports involved include archery, football, wheelchair basketball, swimming, powerlifting, and wheelchair tennis. There’s also cycling, canoeing, swimming, badminton, and wheelchair rugby, among others.

Paralympic Movement, was born

The first Stoke Mandeville Games on the 29th July 1948, arranged as part of a programme of rehabilitation through sport, saw 16 injured servicemen and women taking part in an archery competition. Today this has really grown; as athletes compete in around 22 sports in the Summer Paralympic Games and 6 sports in the Winter Paralympics. Paralympians are now professional athletes and technological advances have seen the development of new equipment designs, such as racing wheelchairs and running prostheses; allowing for improved athletic performance across a wide range of sports. While many sports have been added to the Paralympic programme, some sports have been discontinued. One such sport is Dartchery; a combination of darts and archery, which featured in the Rome Paralympic Games in 1960 where three pairs of athletes took part and each was awarded a medal; but the sport was removed from the programme after 1980.

Taking place every four years in the same year as the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games have since grown into one of the world’s biggest sport events, with a track record for driving social inclusion.

The Paris 2024 Games will be the biggest sporting event ever organised in France. This event is set to take place over 12 magical days from 28 August to 8 September 2024, bringing together 4,400 of the world’s most outstanding Paralympic athletes.

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