A Guide To The Paralympics Games

With the world gearing up for the 2014 Olympics, we’d like to take a moment to remind you that Sochi will also play host to this year’s Paralympics. If you’re not familiar with the paralympics, or you just need a refresher, read through our rundown on the history of the games.

The Paralympic Games are games played in the style of the Olympic Games, but are for athletes with physical and intellectual disabilities. The prefix “Para” stems from the word “parallel,” and alludes to the fact that the competition takes place alongside the Olympic Games. 

Sir Ludwig Guttmann founded the games in 1948. He wanted to start a sport that involved veterans from World War II. Within a few years, veterans from other nations joined in the competition. By 1960, a formal games strategy was formed, and the once informal competition garnered the official name of the Paralympic Games. They Games are held every two years, with both winter and summer Games being staged, and are held in the same host city and venues as the Olympic Games.

There are currently 26 different sports on the Paralympic Games program – 21 summer and 5 winter. Winter sports include alpine and cross country skiing, biathlon, wheelchair curling and sled hockey, while summer sports feature many familiar to Olympic Games fans, including track & field, swimming, cycling, Three sports are specific to the Paralympic Games – wheelchair rugby, boccia and goalball, a sport for athletes who are blind or visually impaired. Two new sports, paratriathlon and canoe, will make their Paralympic Games debut in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

Athletes are categorized by their disabilities and these categories are then classified based on the sport being played. The athlete categories include amputee, cerebral palsy/traumatic brain injury/stroke, wheelchair-users, blind/visual impairment, and les autres. Les autres is a French phrase which means “the others,” and this category includes all athletes that don’t fit into the other five categories. Some well-known Paralympic athletes include, April Holmes, Erin Popovich, Rudy Garcia-Tolson, Matt Scott, Chris Waddell, Sarah Will, and Jessica Long. Then there is Ragnhild Myklebust of Norway, who holds the record for the most medals ever won at the Paralympic Winter Games. Over the course of her illustrious career, she won 22 medals, 17 of which were gold.

Over the years, the Paralympic Games have seen their fair share of controversy. In 2000, some non-disabled athletes from Spain entered the Games and played on the basketball team for athletes with intellectual disabilities. This prompted the International Paralympic Committeeto suspend all intellectually disabled athletes from Paralympic competition until further evaluation. The committee claimed it would re-evaluate this after the Beijing Games, but no final decision has been made. Doping has also become an issue. During the Sydney Games in 2000, 14 athletes tested positive for doping, and 10 of those were participating in the powerlifting competition. Despite its controversies, the Paralympic Games are a great way for those with physical and visual disabilities to shine and prove their athletic greatness.

For more information about the Paralympic movement, please refer to the following websites:

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