This is a summary of the sports that are part of the Paralympic Games – what are the modifications, the classes of disability that are relevant for each competition. After each section there is a link to the official London 2012 video presentation.
Six disability categories:
- Amputee (ALA): Athletes with a partial or total loss of at least one limb.
- Cerebral Palsy (CP): Athletes with non-progressive brain damage, for example cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, stroke or similar disabilities affecting muscle control, balance or coordination.
- Intellectual Disability (ID): Athletes with a significant impairment in intellectual functioning and associated limitations in adaptive behavior.
- Wheelchair (WC): Athletes with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities that require them to compete in a wheelchair.
- Visually Impaired (VI): Athletes with visual impairment ranging from partial vision, sufficient to be judged legally blind, to total blindness. The sighted guides for athletes with a visual impairment and the athlete with visual impairment are considered a team, and both athletes are medal candidates.
- Les Autres (part of ALA) :Athletes with a physical disability that does not fall strictly under one of the other five categories, such as dwarfism, multiple sclerosis or congenital deformities of the limbs such as that caused by thalidomide.
Archery (ALA, CP, WC)
The target is with a diameter of 122cm marked with 10 concentric rings. The targets are placed at a standard distance of 70m, the same distance as at the Olympic Games. Each event includes a ranking round where each archer shoots 72 arrows (12 ends of six arrows each). The elimination rounds will be contested as head-to-head match play. Three classes:
- The standing class (ST1) is for athletes with no loss of function in their arms, but with some degree of loss of muscle strength, co-ordination and/or joint mobility in their legs;
- W1 – athletes who have tetraplegia (with a limited range of movement, strength and control in their arms and legs);
- W2 – athletes with paraplegia or a comparable impairment (with limited mobility in the lower limbs and full arm function).
W1 & W2 compete in a wheelchair.
Athletics (ALA, CP, ID, VI, WC)
Visually impaired athletes participate in running events with the help of a sighted guide, to whom they may be attached by a tether. Sound-emitting devices or a sighted “caller” are used to indicate target areas for throwing events, take-off points for jumping events, and other important locations for visually impaired competitors. Several classes:
- T/F11-T/F13 – visually impaired;
- T/F20 – athletes with intellectual impairment;
- T/F33-T/F37 – athletes with coordination and balance problems;
- T40 – dwarfism (height limit males 145cm, females 140cm);
- T42-T45 – athletes with with a partial or total loss of at least one limb;
- T52-T54 – with damage of spinal cord;
- F52-F58 – other physical impairments.
Boccia can be played by individuals, pairs, or teams of three. All events are mixed gender. The aim of the game is to throw leather balls – coloured red or blue (which side gets which is determined by a coin toss) – as close as they can to a white target ball, or jack. The jack is thrown first, then the first two regular balls are played, (first, the player who threw the jack then the opposing side), after which, the side furthest away from the jack goes next in an attempt to either get closer to the jack or knock the opposition’s ball out of the way. In this fashion, each end will continue until one side has played all their balls, at which point, the opposing side will play their remaining balls. The balls can be moved with hands, feet, or, if the competitor’s disability is severe, with an assistive device such as a ramp. The team/player with the highest number of points at the end of play is the winner. If both teams have the same amount of points after all ends have been played, one additional end is played to determine a winner.
The number of ends and balls in each end depends on the side makeup. Individual competition consists of four ends and six balls per player per end, whilst paired competition is four ends and six balls per pair per end (three per player). Team competition is six ends, and six balls per team per end (two per player). Boccia is played on a court measuring 12.5 × 6 m with 2 m of empty space around it. The surface of the court is flat and smooth. The throwing area is divided into six rectangular throwing boxes in which the athletes must stay completely within during play. On the court is a V-shaped line over which the jack must cross for the throw to be valid.
Boccia players are assigned to one of four sport classes: depending on their functional ability:
- BC1 – Players in this class throw the ball with the hand or foot. They may compete with an assistant who stays outside of the competitor’s playing box, to stabilize or adjust their playing chair and give the ball to the player when requested.
- BC2 – Players in this class throw the ball with the hand. They are not eligible for assistance.
- BC3 – Players in this class have very severe locomotor dysfunction in all four extremities. Players in this class have no sustained grasp or release action and although they may have arm movement, they have insufficient range of movement to propel a Boccia ball onto the court. They may use an assistive device such as a ramp to deliver the ball. They may compete with an assistant; assistants must keep their back to the court and their eyes averted from play.
- BC4 – Players in this class have severe locomotor dysfunction of all four extremities as well as poor trunk control. They can demonstrate sufficient dexterity to throw the ball onto the court. Players are not eligible for assistance.
Cycling (ALA, CP, VI, WC)
Cycling has been contested at every Summer Paralympic Games since the 1984 Summer Paralympics.
Cyclists are given a classification depending on the type and extent of their disability. The classification system allows cyclists to compete against others with a similar level of function.
Cycling classes are:
- B&VI 1–3: Visual impairment
- LC 1–4: Cyclists with a locomotor disability
- CP 1–4: Cyclists with cerebral palsy
- HC A, B, and C: Cyclists using a handcycle
Equestrian (ALA, CP, VI, WC)
Equestrian consists of dressage events.Riders were given a classification depending on the type and extent of their disability. The classification system allows riders to compete against others with a similar level of function.
Equestrian classes were:
- I, for riders with impaired limb function, or poor balance and good upper limb function
- II, for riders with locomotion impairment
- III, for blind riders with moderate locomotion impairment
- IV, for riders with some visual impairment or impaired function in one or two limbs
For each of the events below, medals were contested for one or more of the above classifications. After each classification are given the dates that the event was contested. All events were mixed, meaning that men and women competed together.
- Mixed individual championship
- Mixed individual freestyle
- Mixed team
Football 5-a-Side (VI)
This is an adaptation of football for athletes with visual impairments. Teams have five players, including the goalkeeper. Teams may also use one guide, who is positioned off the field of play, to assist in directing players. The ball is equipped with a noise-making device to allow players to locate it by sound. Matches consist of two 25-minute halves. Three classes of athletes – B1 (totally or almost totally bind) and B2&B3 (partially sighted). For Class B2/B3 games, teams can field players in sport classes B2 and B3; at least two B2 players must be on the field at all times.
Football 7-a-Side (CP)
This is an adaptation of football for athletes with cerebral palsy. Modifications – reduced field of play, a reduction in the number of players, elimination of the offside rule, and permission for one-handed throw-ins. Matches consist of two thirty-minute halves, with a fifteen-minute half-time break. Four classes of athletes:
- C5 – athletes with difficulties when walking and running, but not in standing or when kicking the ball;
- C6 – athletes with control and co-ordination problems of their upper limbs, especially when running;
- C7: athletes with hemiplegia;
- C8 – minimally disabled athletes.
Teams must field at least one class C5 or C6 player at all times. No more than two players of class C8 are permitted to play at the same time.
Goalball is a team sport designed for blind athletes. Participants compete in teams of three, and try to throw a ball that has bells embedded in it into the opponents’ goal. Teams alternate throwing or rolling the ball from one end of the playing area to the other, and players remain in the area of their own goal in both defence and attack. Players must use the sound of the bell to judge the position and movement of the ball. Games consist of two 12 minute halves (formerly 10 minute halves). Blindfolds allow partially sighted players to compete on an equal footing with blind players. Up to three substitutes are allowed in addition to the three starting players: one Center and two Wingers. Men and women compete separately.
Paralympic judo is an adaptation of the Japanese martial art of judo for visually impaired competitors. Paralympic judo competition has rules with some modifications specified by the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA). The major rule difference is that contests always start with the 2 competitors in a loose grip on each others Judo suits (grip called “Kumikata”) and if contact is broken, “matte”(Wait), or stop, is called and the competitors return to center and regrip.
Powerlifting (ALA, CP, WC)
Paralympic powerlifting is an adaptation of the sport of powerlifting for athletes with disabilities. The only discipline in Paralympic powerlifting is the bench press. The sport is governed by the International Paralympic Committee and is open to anyone with a minimum level of disability who can extend their arms within 20° of full extension during a lift. Powerlifting has been competed at the Summer Paralympics since 1984.
Rowing (ALA, CP, VI, WC)
Adaptive rowing is a special category of rowing race for those with physical disabilities. Under FISA rules there are three categories for adaptive rowers: LTA – Legs, Trunk, Arms. Use of at least one leg, trunk and arms. Also for those with visual and intellectual impairments. Rowed with standard boats and sliding seats. TA – Trunk and Arms. Only use of trunk muscles. Boat has fixed seat. AS – Arms and Shoulders Limited trunk control. Boat has fixed seat and rower is strapped at upper chest level to only allow shoulder and arm movements. At FISA events there are 4 boat events :
- 4+ Mixed LTA
- 2x Mixed TA
- 1x Men AS
- 1x Women AS
Racing is held over 1,000 m (rather than the standard 2,000 m). In mixed events half the crew must be male and other half female (coxswain maybe of either gender and may be able bodied). Single shells for the Arms and Shoulders category must have stabilising pontoons attached to the riggers.
Sailing (ALA, CP, VI, WC)
Sailing has been an official part of the Summer Paralympic Games since 2000. Because sailing is an equipment based sport any boat can be adapted to suit certain types of disabilities. However the following classes are used in the Paralympics :
- Open One Person Keelboat – Norlin Mk3 One Design a sub secion of the 2.4 Metre,
- Mixed Two Person Keelboat – SKUD 18,
- Open Three Person Keelboat – Sonar
Shooting (ALA, CP, VI, WC)
Paralympic shooting is an adaptation of shooting sports for competitors with disabilities. Shooting is a test of accuracy and control, in which competitors use pistols or rifles to fire a series of shots at a stationary target. Competitions are open to all athletes with a physical disability. Athletes use .22 caliber rifles and air guns (pneumatic, CO2 gas or spring). Athletes compete in rifle and pistol events from distances of 10, 25 and 50 metres, in men’s, women’s and mixed competitions. Shooting utilizes a functional classification system, which enables athletes from different disability classes to compete together either individually or in teams, with wheelchairusers competing on equal level with standing shooters. Classification:
- SH1 – Shooters able to support a gun without a stand,
- SH2 – Shooters requiring a gun support to shoot,
- SH3 – Blind Shooters (sights seek sound-emitting targets).
Sub-classifications A, B and C define wheelchair backrest height depending on back and pelvic strength per athlete. Disabled shooters use exactly the same guns and clothing as able-bodied shooters. There are adaptations like the use of a shooting chair for competitors unable to stand, also a shooting table for events like kneeling or prone. he only additional event is the 10m air rifle prone which is shot with both male and female shooters mixed. Both sexes shooting 60 shots within 1 hour 30 minutes.
Swimming (ALA, CP, ID, VI, WC)
The majority of rules for Paralympic swimming are the same as those for able-bodied competitions. Significant differences include the starting position and adaptations allowed for visually impaired swimmers. Competitors may start a race by standing on a platform and diving into the pool, as in able-bodied swimming, or by sitting on the platform and diving in, or they may start the race in the water. In events for the blind and visually impaired, people called “tappers” stand at the end of the pool and use a pole to tap the swimmers when they approach the wall, indicating when the swimmer should turn or end the race. Competitors in these events are required to wear blackened goggles, so that partially sighted swimmers compete at an even level with those who are totally blind.
Swimmers with physical disabilities are allocated a category between 1 and 10, with 1 corresponding to the most severe types of disability. Physical disabilities of Paralympic swimmers include single or multiple limb loss (through birth defects and/or amputation), cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries (leading to paralysis or disability in limb coordination), dwarfism, and disabilities which impair the use of joints. Blind and visually impaired swimmers compete within separate categories, being allocated to categories 11, 12 or 13. Category 11 corresponds to totally blind swimmers, while competitors in category 13 have severe but not total visual impairment. Swimmers with mental disabilities compete in category 14. Numbers are combined with a letter prefix depending on the event type. An “S” prefix corresponds to freestyle, backstroke and butterfly, while “SB” corresponds to breaststroke and “SM” to the medley.
Table tennis (ALA, CP, WC)
Paralympic table tennis is asport which follows the standard rules with slight modifications for wheelchair athletes. Athletes from all disability groups can take part. Athletes receive classifications between 1-10. Class 1-5 are for those in wheelchairs and class 6-10 for those who have disabilities that allow them to play standing. Within those groups the higher classification means the more function the athlete has. The usual table tennis rules are in effect with the only rule difference being that the serve must cross the back of the table before it crosses the sides of the table.
In sitting volleyball, the net is about 3 feet high, and the court is 10 x 6 meters with a 2-meter attack line. Players are allowed to block serves, but one “cheek” must be in contact with the floor whenever they make contact with the ball. In standing volleyball, a mix of disabilities must be represented on the court at all time to equalize the level of play. Athletes with the following disabilities can compete in sitting or standing volleyball: Amputees, spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, brain injuries and stroke. There are no athlete classifications by disability.
Wheelchair basketball (WC, ALA)
Wheelchair basketball is basketball played by people in wheelchairs and is considered one of the major disabled sports practiced. It is estimated that more than 100,000 people play wheelchair basketball from recreation to club play and as elite national team members. Wheelchair basketball retains most major rules and scoring of basketball and is played at standard basketball court. Some exceptions – “travelling” in wheelchair basketball occurs when the athlete touches his wheels more than twice after receiving or dribbling the ball. The individual must pass, bounce or shoot the ball before touching the wheels again. All teams use a classification system to evaluate the functional abilities of players on a point scale of 1 to 4.5. Minimally disabled athletes are classified as a 4.5, and an individual with the highest degree of disability (such as a paraplegic with a complete injury below the chest) would have the classification of 1.0. he five players from each team on the court during play may not exceed a total of 14 points.
Wheelchair fencing (WC)
Wheelchair fencing is a version of Fencing for athletes with a disability. Classification: class A (athletes with full trunk movement and good balance) & class B (athletes with no leg movement and impaired trunk and balance functions)
Wheelchair rugby (WC)
Wheelchair rugby is mostly played by two teams of up to twelve players. Only four players from each team may be on the court at any time. It is a mixed gender sport, and both male and female athletes play on the same teams. Wheelchair rugby is played indoors on a hardwood court of the same measurements as a regulation basketball court — 28 metres long by 15 metres wide. The goal lineis the section of the end line within the key. For a goal to count, two wheels of the player’s wheelchair must cross the line while the player has possession of the ball. Offensive players are not permitted to remain in the opposing team’s key for more than ten seconds. A player with possession of the ball must bounce or pass the ball within ten seconds. Teams have twelve seconds to advance the ball from their back court into the front court and a total of forty seconds to score a point or concede possession. Physical contact between wheelchairs is permitted, and forms a major part of the game. Wheelchair rugby games consist of four eight-minute quarters.
Wheelchair tennis (WC)
This is one of the forms of tennis adapted for those who have disabilities in their lower bodies. The size of courts, balls, and rackets are same, but there are two major differences f- they use specially designed wheelchairs and the ball may bounce up to two times. The second bounce may also occur outside of the field. There are three categories; Men, Ladies, and Quads and each category has singles and doubles tournaments. Quads is the category for those with quadriplegia and it is sometimes called Mixed especially at Paralympic Games. Quads players can hold rackets taped to the hand and use electric-powered wheelchairs.