Paralympic Games – Inclusive High Level Sports

The Olympics are due to start in a few weeks followed by the Paralympics. This year's event is due to take place in August in Toyko, Japan, after having been postponed due to the global pandemic which prevented them going ahead last year as planned. Some believe the Paralympics were so named as a joining of the words paraplegia and Olympics, in reality they are so named because the word “Paralympic” derives from the Greek preposition “para” (beside or alongside) and the word “Olympic”. Paralympics are the parallel Games to the Olympics and the two movements exist side-by-side.

Whilst the first Olympics have a long history that we learn about in primary school, less is known about the Paralympic movement. 

Following World War II, the British government opened a spinal injuries centre at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital, and in time, rehabilitation sport evolved to recreational sport and then to competitive sport. On 29 July 1948, the day of the Opening Ceremony of the London 1948 Olympic Games, Dr. Guttmann - who started the spinal centre - organised the first competition for wheelchair athletes.  This event was named the Stoke Mandeville Games and involved 16 injured servicemen and women who took part in archery. The Stoke Mandeville games went on to become an international competition in 1952 when a group of Dutch ex-service men joined the event.

In 1960 the Stoke Mandeville games became the Paralympics, with 400 athletes competing in the Rome, Italy games. The Paralympic Games have been run next to every Olympic Games since then. That same year an ‘’International Working Group on Sport for the Disabled’ was set up to study the problems of sport for persons with an impairment, this group went on to become the International Sport Organisation for the Disabled (ISOD) and advocated for the inclusion of athletes with a range of impairments to be included in the games. Other groups advocating for sport later joined ISOD and formed the International Co-coordinating Committee Sports for the Disabled in the World" (ICC) in 1982. Seven years later the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) was founded as an international non-profit organisation in Dusseldorf, Germany, to act as the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement.

So how do the Paralympics be inclusive and fair for athletes with different impairments? Classification. “Classification is the cornerstone of the Paralympic Movement; it determines which athletes are eligible to compete in a sport and how athletes are grouped together for competition. In Para sports, athletes are grouped by the degree of activity limitation resulting from the impairment. This, to a certain extent, is similar to grouping athletes by age, gender or weight. Each sport has its own classification system and code that reflects the specific requirements for that sport. Initially classification was medically based on the athlete's diagnosis, but has evolved into a functional classification system. Wheelchair rugby is one of the most popular Paralympic sports and one of the first to develop a robust and evidence based functional classification system.

Wheelchair rugby is played on a court. It is a fast and high impact game and popular spectator sport. A wheelchair rugby team consists of up to 12 players however there are only ever 4 players per team on the court at one time. Each athlete is classified into one of seven sport classes based on their functional capacity. Each class has a number value from 0.5 to 3.5 (0.5 being the class with athletes with most impairment), where the added value of these numbers determines who can be on court playing at any time - the total value cannot exceed 8.0 per team. Over the years that I have been involved in Paralympic sport, I have seen first-hand how hard our athletes train and work to overcome a multitude of barriers; physical, emotional and financial to make the national teams and represent their country. You can find out more about wheelchair rugby at IWRF Wheelchair Rugby Ready the official ruby federations page.

Pool draw for wheelchair rugby at this years Paralympics.

We would like to wish all the Athletes competing this year the best of luck. Follow our Facebook and Instagram pages for updates on our Permobil ambassador competing and general news from the games. We will be closely following and supporting you all.

Tracee-lee has been involved with wheelchair rugby classification in Australia and New Zealand and has been part of international classification panels in Asia, USA and Europe. She also trained in Boccia classification.

Tracee-lee Maginnity
Clinical Education Specialist

Tracee-lee Maginnity joined Permobil Australia in July 2019, as a clinical education specialist. She graduated Auckland University of Technology with a BHSc (Occupational Therapy) in 2003 and has since worked in various roles related to seating and mobility including assessing, prescribing and educating.

Tracee-lee is passionate about maximising functional outcomes with end users and the importance of education within the industry.

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