The first organized disabled sports games were held in 1948 in Stoke Mandeville, England. Sir Ludwig Guttmann invited World War II veterans with spinal cord injuries to participate in these games. What started in England soon became an international event.
Today, the Paralympic Games are held the same year as the Olympic Games and take place in the same city. The Paralympic Games offer elite sporting events for athletes from six disability groups. Like the Olympics, the Paralympics have both summer and winter games. There are 18 Paralympic summer sports and three Paralympic winter sports.
Paralympic Summer Sports
Archery: Archery includes singles, doubles and team events. Both the competition and scoring process are the same as those used in the Olympic Games.
Athletics: Track and field events are the most popular events in the Paralympic Games. Athletics are open to every disability class. Events include track, field, jumping, pentathlon, and the marathon.
Bocce: Bocce is played by athletes with cerebral palsy. This sport was introduced in the Paralympics in 1984. Bocce can be played individually or as a team.
Cycling: Athletes can compete individually or on a team (group of three cyclists from one nation). Athletes with cerebral palsy either compete using a standard bike or a tricycle. Athletes who are blind or have visual impairments compete on a tandem bike with a sighted guide. Amputees compete in individual road race events.
Equestrian: During Paralympic competition, athletes compete according to their functional profile. Athletes must ride a set pattern which includes various changes in pace and direction.
Fencing: All athletes use wheelchairs during competition and the chairs are fastened to the floor. Athletes who have cerebral palsy, use wheelchairs, or are amputees can compete as individuals or as a team. Events include foil, epee (men and women) and sabre (men).
Goalball: Both men and women who are blind or have visual impairments play goalball. This is a team event. Each team consists of three players. All athletes wear masks during the game. An audible ball is used to indicate where the ball is on the court.
Judo: Judo is very comparable to Olympic Judo. The differences are that athletes are blind or have visual impairments and the mats are textured so athletes know the competition area and zones.
Powerlifting: Powerlifting follows identical rules and procedures as the Olympic sport. Powerlifting is for both men and women and is a cross-disability sport. Athletes compete according to 10 weight classes.
Sailing: Athletes compete according to a classification system. This system is based on five factors — stability, hand function, maneuverability, visability, and hearing. In Paralympic competition, the boats have keels. This allows for more room in the cockpit for sailors.
Shooting: Shooting consists of two divisions: rifle and pistol events and .22 calibre rifle. A classification system is used so all athletes from different disability classes can compete together either individually or as teams.
Soccer: Soccer is only offered in the Paralympics for male athletes with cerebral palsy. The big difference in Paralympic soccer is that the field and goal sizes are smaller.
Swimming: Swimming has become one of the most popular events at the Paralympics. Athletes come from all disability groups and are classified according to their ability. No assistive or flotation devices are allowed during Paralympic competition.
Table Tennis: Table tennis is divided into standing and wheelchair events. Athletes from all disability classes can compete. Athletes are divided into one of ten classes and compete in singles, team and open men's and women's events.
Wheelchair Basketball: A standard court size and basketball height are used in wheelchair basketball. Wheelchair basketball is the oldest Paralympic sport dating back to the 1940s. Most teams use three guards and two forwards. This helps increase the intensity of the movement on the court.
Wheelchair Rugby: Rugby is for athletes who are quadriplegic. Both men and women athletes play this intense sport. Rugby includes aspects from basketball, football and ice hockey and is played on a basketball court. Four athletes at a time play. A sport-specific classification system based on functional ability is used in rugby.
Wheelchair Tennis: Wheelchair tennis follows traditional tennis rules. The one difference is the two-bounce rule for wheelchair tennis players. To play wheelchair tennis, the athlete must have a mobility-related disability. Singles and doubles are both offered in the Paralympics.
Sit Volleyball: The court (smaller) and net size (lower) are the big differences in sit volleyball. Sit volleyball is for all athletes with mobility disabilities.
Paralympic Winter Sports
Alpine Skiing: Athletes are divided into different classes according to their ability. The same events as in non-disabled skiing take place at the Paralympics: Downhill, Super G, Giant Slalom, and Slalom. Skiers with visual impairments use a guide to direct them through courses. Other adaptive equipment used in this sport are mono skis, outriggers and prosthetics.
Cross-Country Skiing (Nordic): Cross country skiers based on their disability either use traditional skis or use a sit ski to compete. Skiers with visual impairments use a guide. Athletes can race either in classical or free events and can compete as a team or individually. Nordic events range between 2.5 km to 20 km in distance.
Sled Hockey: Sled hockey is one of the newest sports in Paralympic competition and seems to be one of the fastest-growing sports. Six players, including the goalie, are on the ice at all times. Competitors sit on sleds with two blade runners underneath the sled. Players use sticks with a spike-end and a blade-end. The spike-end allows them to push across the ice. Hockey games are divided into three 15-minute stop periods.
For More Information
United States Paralympics
United States Olympic Committee
International Paralympic Committee
More information on this and related topics may be available in the NCPAD Citations Database. Try searching with keyword: Paralympic.
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