What Are the Paralympics?

Did you know that the Paralympics kicked off in the very same city famous for launching the Olympic Games? The first Paralympic competition was held in 1960, in Rome. Here, 400 athletes (all suffering from spinal cord injuries) competed for victory. 

So, what are the Paralympics? 

Well, 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! 

Read on to learn all of what there is to know about the Paralympics, and a bit extra too! 

What Are the Paralympics? A Little History Lesson

There have almost always been platforms for athletes with certain impairments to compete against one another. For example, there were sports clubs in existence in the 1800s in Berlin for deaf athletes. 

But, it was 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

There is no limit to what sports these players can participate in, which can be anything from biathlons to skiing to archery and even cycling. 

Finding Paralympic Victory

So now that we've answered your question, what are the Paralympics? 

Here are some parting thoughts: 

  • The road to competing in the Paralympics is difficult, tough, and takes extreme dedication to the chosen discipline. These athletes spend countless hours training and improving. They focus on learning and fighting toward their dream of taking a medal home for their country.
  • If you're keen to get training and find yourself on the road to fitness and fun, then you've got to read this! 


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