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Paralympic sport

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Paralympic sport

The Paralympic sports comprise all the sports contested in the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games. As of 2012, the Summer Paralympics include 21 sports and about 500 events, and the Winter Paralympics include 5 sports and disciplines and about 64 events. The number and kinds of events may change from one Paralympiad to another.

The Paralympic Games are a major international multi-sport event for athletes with physical disabilities. This includes athletes with mobility disabilities, amputations, blindness, and Cerebral Palsy. Paralympic sports refers to organized competitive sporting activities as part of the global Paralympic movement. These sports are organized and run under the supervision of the International Paralympic Committee and other international sports federations.


Organized sport for persons with physical disabilities developed out of rehabilitation programs. Following World War II, in response to the needs of large numbers of injured ex-service members and civilians, sport was introduced as a key part of rehabilitation. Sport for rehabilitation grew into recreational sport and then into competitive sport. The pioneer of this approach was Ludwig Guttmann of the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in England. In 1948, while the Olympic Games were being held in London, England, he organized a sports competition for wheelchair athletes at Stoke Mandeville. This was the origin of the Stoke Mandeville Games, which evolved into the modern Paralympic Games.


Globally, the International Paralympic Committee is recognized as the leading organization, with direct governance of thirteen sports, and responsibility over the Paralympic Games and other multi-sport, multi-disability events. Other international organizations, notably the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS), the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA), and the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CP-ISRA) govern some sports that are specific to certain disability groups. In addition, certain single-sport federations govern sports for athletes with a disability, either as part of an able-bodied sports federation such as the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI), or as a disabled sports federation such as the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation.

At the national level, there are a wide range of organizations that take responsibility for Paralympic sport, including National Paralympic Committees, which are members of the IPC, and many others.

Disability categories

Athletes who participate in Paralympic sport are grouped into six major categories, based on their type of disability:

  • Amputee: Persons with a partial or total amputation of at least one limb.
  • Cerebral palsy: Persons who have a non-progressive neurological disorder resulting from cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, or stroke, or similar disabilities affecting muscle control, balance or coordination.
  • Les autres: From the French for the others, this includes persons with a mobility impairment or other loss of physical function that does not fall strictly into one of the other five categories. Participants include those with dwarfism, multiple sclerosis or other disabilities.
  • Visually impaired: Persons who have a non-correctable vision impairment ranging from partially sighted to total blindness.
  • Wheelchair: Persons with a disability that requires them to compete using a wheelchair. This includes most athletes with spinal cord injuries as well as other athletes who require wheelchairs, including some lower limb amputees, persons with polio, and other disabilities.

The disability category determines who athletes compete against and which sports they participate in. Some sports are open to multiple disability categories (e.g. cycling), while others are restricted to only one (e.g. Five-a-side football). In some sports athletes from multiple categories compete, but only within their category (e.g. athletics), while in others athletes from different categories compete against one another (e.g. swimming). Events in the Paralympics are commonly labelled with the relevant disability category, such as Men's Swimming Freestyle S1, indicating athletes with a severe physical impairment, or Ladies Table Tennis 11, indicating athletes with an intellectual disability.[1]


A major component of Paralympic sport is classification. Classification provides a structure for competition which allows athletes to compete against others with similar disabilities or similar levels of physical function. It is similar in aim to the weight classes or age categories used in some non-disabled sports.

Athletes are classified through a variety of processes that depend on their disability group and the sport they are participating in. Evaluation may include a physical or medical examination, a technical evaluation of how the athlete performs certain sport-related physical functions, and observation in and out of competition. Each sport has its own specific classification system which forms part of the rules of the sport.

Summer Paralympics

Current summer sports

The following table lists the currently practiced Paralympic sports:

Sport Categories Governing body Paralympic Games status
Archery ALA, CP, WC WA Summer sport (since 1960)
Athletics ALA, CP, ID, VI, WC IPC Summer sport (since 1960)
Boccia ALA, CP, WC CP-ISRA Summer sport (since 1984)
Track cycling
Road cycling
ALA, CP, VI, WC UCI Summer sport (since 1988)
Summer sport (since 1984)
Equestrian ALA, CP, VI, WC FEI Summer sport (since 1996)
Football 5-a-Side VI IBSA Summer sport (since 2004)
Football 7-a-Side CP CP-ISRA Summer sport (since 1984)
Goalball VI IBSA Summer sport (since 1980)
Judo VI IBSA Summer sport (since 1988)
Paratriathlon ALA, CP, VI, WC ITU Summer sport (since 2016)
Powerlifting ALA, CP, WC IPC Summer sport (since 1964)
Rowing ALA, CP, VI, WC FISA Summer sport (since 2008)
Sailing ALA, CP, VI, WC IFDS Summer sport (since 2000)
Shooting ALA, CP, VI, WC IPC Summer sport (since 1976)
Swimming ALA, CP, ID, VI, WC IPC Summer sport (since 1960)
Table tennis ALA, CP, ID, WC ITTF Summer sport (since 1960)
Volleyball ALA WOVD Summer sport (since 1976)
Wheelchair basketball WC, ALA IWBF Summer sport (since 1960)
Wheelchair fencing WC IWAS Summer sport (since 1960)
Wheelchair rugby WC IWRF Summer sport (since 2000)
Wheelchair tennis WC ITF Summer sport (since 1992)

Discontinued summer sports

Sport Categories Governing body Paralympic Games status
Basketball ID ID INAS-FID Summer sport (1996–2000)
Lawn bowls ALA, CP, VI, WC, IPC Summer sport (1968–1988, 1996)
Snooker WC IWAS Summer sport (1960–1976, 1984–1988)
Dartchery IPC Summer sport (1960–1980)
Weightlifting Summer sport (1964–1992)
Wrestling Summer sport (1980–1984)

Winter Paralympics

Current winter sports

Sport Categories Governing body Paralympic Games status
Alpine skiing ALA, CP, VI, WC IPC Winter sport (since 1976)
Ice sledge hockey ALA, CP, WC IPC Winter sport (since 1994)
Nordic skiing:
Cross-country skiing
ALA, CP, VI, WC IPC Winter sport (since 1988)
Winter sport (since 1976)
Wheelchair curling WC ICF Winter sport (since 2006)
Para-snowboarding ALA IPC Winter sport (from 2014)[2]

Discontinued winter sports

Sport Categories Governing body Paralympic Games status
Ice sledge racing Winter sport (1980–1988, 1994–1998)

Possible future winter sports

Bob Balk, the chairman of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletes' Council, launched a campaign in early 2012 to have sliding sports (bobsleigh, luge and skeleton) included at the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeonghchang, South Korea.[3]


  • Categories:
    • ALA — Amputee and les autres
    • CP — Cerebral palsy
    • ID — Intellectual disability
    • VI — Visually impaired
    • WC — Wheelchair
  • Governing bodies:
    • CP-ISRA — Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association
    • FEI — International Federation for Equestrian Sports
    • IBSA — International Blind Sports Federation
    • ICF — International Curling Federation
    • IFDS — International Association for Disabled Sailing
    • INAS-FID — International Sports Federation for Persons with an Intellectual Disability
    • IPC — International Paralympic Committee
    • ITF — International Tennis Federation
    • ITTF — International Table Tennis Federation
    • IWAS — International Wheelchair and Amputee Sport Federation
    • IWBF — International Wheelchair Basketball Federation
    • WOVD — World Organization Volleyball for Disabled
    • CISS — Comite International des Sport des Sourd
    • WCH — Wheelchair hockey


The categories listed represent all those groups that participate in this sport at some level. Not all these categories are represented in competition at the Paralympic Games.

The governing bodies listed represent those organizations responsible for the broadest level of participation. In some cases, other disability-specific organizations will also have some governance of athletes in that sport within their own group. For example, the IPC governs multi-disability athletics competitions such as the Paraympic Games; however, CP-ISRA, IBSA, and IWAS provide single-disability events in athletics for athletes with cerebral palsy, visually impaired athletes, and wheelchair and amputee athletes respectively.

Paralympic Games status details the years these sports were practiced as full medal events at the Paralympic Games.

See also


External links

  • International Paralympic Committee
  • IPC web site
  • Cerebral Palsy International Sport and Recreation Association
  • International Blind Sports Association
  • INAS-FID: International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability
  • International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation
  • Discussion forum of Disabled sports

Template:IPC-recognised paralympic sports

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