A sprinter bursts out of the blocks and down the track. The special artificial leg for running is called a prosthesis. ©Getty 

A sprinter bursts out of the blocks and down the track. The special artificial leg for running is called a prosthesis. ©Getty 

The Paralympic Games is an international sporting event for athletes with disability. There are ten categories of disability, including, among others:

  • impaired muscle ability such as paraplegia, quadriplegia, muscular dystrophy and spina bifida;
  • impaired range of movement due to amputation or to missing or unformed limbs;
  • vision impairment;
  • intellectual impairment.

 

Beginnings

Cross-country skiing is an event at the Paralympic Winter Games. ©Getty

Cross-country skiing is an event at the Paralympic Winter Games. ©Getty

Paralympic Games began in 1948 as a small special event to help the rehabilitation of British service people injured in World War II.  In 1952 Dutch athletes were included and it marked the beginning of the event as an international one. Today the Paralympic Games is a major sporting event involving thousands of athletes from over 100 countries.   There are summer and winter Paralympic Games.

Because there are now Paralympic athletes with a wide variety of disabilities, there are several categories in which the athletes compete. There are ten eligible impairment types. Each category is broken down into further classifications that vary from sport to sport.

Before the Paralympic Games came into being there had been athletes with a disability competing in Olympic Games: 1904 - American gymnast George Eyser had an artificial leg; 1948 and 1952 – Hungarian shooter Karoly Takacs, who had had his right arm amputated but who could shoot left handed. 1943 – Danish equestrian Lis Hartel who had had polio.

Milestones

The first Paralympic Summer  Games took place in 1960 in Rome, Italy.  There were 400 athletes from 23 Countries.

The first Paralympic Winter Games took place in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden in 1976.

Wheelchair tennis is an event at the Paralympic Summer Games. ©Getty

Wheelchair tennis is an event at the Paralympic Summer Games. ©Getty

The Paralympic Games continued to be held every four years in the same year as Olympic Games although not necessarily in the same city.

Initially the Paralympic Games were open only to athletes in wheelchairs but in 1976 athletes with different disabilities were included, which meant the Games expanded that year to include 1600 athletes from 40 countries, and has continued to grow.

Swimming has been included since 1960. ©Getty

Swimming has been included since 1960. ©Getty

In 1988 in Seoul the Paralympic Summer Games were held immediately after the Summer Olympic Games, using the same facilities. This was done in 1992, 1996 and 2000.   

In 1992 the Paralympic Winter Games were the first to use the same facilities as the Winter Olympic Games.

In 2001 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and IPC signed an agreement which ensured that host cities would be contracted to provide both the Olympic & Paralympic Games, for all Summer and Winter games until Tokyo 2020.   

Australia at the Paralympic Games

Kayaking and canoeing are events in the Paralympic Summer Games ©Getty

Kayaking and canoeing are events in the Paralympic Summer Games ©Getty

Australians have been competing at the Paralympic Games since 1960, when Ross Sutton and Daphne Ceeney were our first male and female gold medallists at the Summer Paralympics.  Michael Milton became Australia's first Winter Paralympics gold medallist at the 1992 Winter Paralympics.

Special racing wheelchair moving at speed during a race. ©Getty

Special racing wheelchair moving at speed during a race. ©Getty

 

In 1990 the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) was established. It is responsible for the preparation and management of Australian teams competing at the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games. Australia finished top of the medal tally at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics and have finished in the top 5 for every Paralympic Summer Games since 1996.

 

See the list of sports events at Paralympic Summer Games and read about how they are played:

https://www.paralympic.org/sports

See the list of sports events at the Paralympic Winter Games and read about how they are played:

https://www.paralympic.org/sports/winter

Read about the 2018 Summer Paralympic Games in Pyongchang, South Korea:

https://www.paralympic.org/paralympic-games