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Tokyo Paralympics: How Are Paralympians Classified? Know About Sport Classes Across Which Athletes Compete

Classification is one of the key aspects of the Paralympic Games as it divides competitors into categories based on their level of impairment.

How Paralympics classification work, How many Paralympic categories are there, Tokyo Paralympics 2020, International Paralympic Committee

Image: InternationalParalympicCommittee/Website


One of the most important aspects of the Paralympic Games is classification, where competitors are divided into categories based on their level of impairment in order to minimise the impact of their disability on sports. Prior to the tournament, athletes are divided into groups to guarantee that the victors are determined exclusively on the basis of talent, fitness, ability, strategies, and focus and not on their level of impairment. 

How does the classification work?

A procedure known as "Athlete Evaluation" is used to classify athletes. Athletes are assessed and assigned a Sport Class and Sport Class Status based on their level of impairment, which can be visual, physical, or mental. 

Step 1: The first phase in the Athlete Evaluation procedure is to ascertain if the athlete in question has an eligible impairment. There are 10 eligible impairment categories under which athletes can take part in the paralympic games. 

The 10 eligible impairments are - Impaired muscle power, Impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency, Leg length difference, Short stature, Muscle tension, Uncoordinated movement, Involuntary movements, Vision impairment, Intellectual Impairment.

Step 2: The next stage is to see if the athlete meets the sport's Minimum Impairment Criteria, which determines whether or not the impairment is severe enough for the athlete to compete in Paralympics.

Step 3: The third and last phase is defining an athlete's sports class, which lets the panel decide which class the athlete should compete in based on similar activity constraints, ensuring fair and equitable competition.

What are the different types of Sport Classes?

In the Paralympic Games, there are various Sport Classes based on the level of impairment. In archery, for example, the sport class 'W1' denotes athletes who compete in a wheelchair. Athletes competing in the 'Open' category may do so in a wheelchair while resting on a stool, or while standing. There are some sports that only have one sport class and then there is athletics, which include all 10 eligible impairments and have over 50 sport classes. Para ice hockey and para powerlifting are among the sports that have only one sport class. 

Examples of Sport Classes based on impairments:

Vision impairment – Sport Classes T/F11-T/F13
Intellectual impairment - Sport Classes T20/F20
Co-ordination impairments - Sport Classes F31, T32/F32-T38/F38
Short stature - Sport Classes T40/F40, T41/F41
Limb deficiencies - Sport Classes T42/F42 - T46/F46, T47, T/F61-64
Impaired muscle power or impaired range of movement - Sport Classes T51-54; F51-57 

Image: InternationalParalympicCommittee/Website

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