Insight Sports

5 interesting facts you didn’t know about the Paralympics

Must Know: There are 22 Athletes representing Malaysia in Tokyo Paralympic

Paralympics, or Paralympic Games, is an Olympic-styled event for disabled athletes where they can exhibit their sporting prowess on the field despite their disabilities.

The 2020 Tokyo Paralympics is set to start on August 25, with 537 events across 22 sports. Among the sports category, Badminton and Taekwondo is making a debut this year.

1. Founding

Sporting events for athletes with impairments gained traction after WWII with the purpose of assisting injured war veterans and civilians.

The founder, Sir Ludwig Guttmann, was a Jewish doctor who fled Germany to England, where he opened a centre treating spinal injuries at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital. It wasn’t until 1944 where rehabilitation sports slowly evolved into competitive sports.

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In the London 1948 Olympics, the first sporting event for wheelchair-bound athletes was held. It was first named as the “Stoke Mandeville Games”, where it later developed to the Paralympic Games with ranges of other games as we know it today.

2. Unique categories

Among the 22 sports, Boccia and Goalball are the only sports that doesn’t have an Olympic counterpart.

Athletes representing Malaysia : Chew Wei Lun- Boccia
Image via Kontinjen Malaysia

Boccia debuted in 1984 in New York and was initially designed for individuals with cerebral palsy, but it is now played by athletes with any kind of neurological impairment that affects their motor skills.

As for goalball, it is played by athletes with visual impairments using a ball with bells inside. The aim is to score by rolling the ball into the opposing team’s goal, while the other team attempts to block the ball with their bodies.

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Fun Fact: Spectators are required to stay silent during Goalball games as players rely on their hearing.

3. Medals

Unlike the Olympic medals design which feature Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, the Paralympic medal design is centred around the motif of a traditional Japanese fan to:

“Depict the Paralympic Games as the source of a fresh new wind blowing through the world as well as a shared experience connecting diverse hearts and minds.”

In addition, for the first time in history, the medals will feature a series of circular indentations to help those with vision impairments recognise the different medals through touch.

4. Classification

Within each sport category, there are different classifications where athletes are grouped according to the degree of their impairments. This is to ensure that athletes achieve victory based on their skills and not their disabilities.

Athletes are then assessed and placed into various Sport Class and Sport Class Status after the evaluation process. 

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) states that the evaluation has three fundamental questions:

  1. Does the athlete have an Eligible Impairment for this sport? 
  2. Does the Eligible Impairment meet the Minimum Impairment Criteria of the sport? 
  3. Which Sport Class should the athlete be allocated in based on the extent to which the athlete is able to execute the specific tasks and activities fundamental to the sport? 

5. Eligible Impairment

There are 10 eligible impairments which are usually grouped into three categories: (a) Physical impairments, (b) Vision impairment and (c) Intellectual impairment.

Not all sports fall under the 10 Eligible Impairments. One example of this is goalball, where it is specifically catered for visual impairment.

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Therefore, an athlete needs to pass an Eligible Impairment assessment for every single sport category he/she wishes to participate in before moving on to the main stage.

Cover Images via Paralympics Twitter and Paralympic Heritage

Author: Anna Wong
Proofreader: Sarah Yeah

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