Sport

Paralympic classifications explained: What do the categories mean?

British cyclist Sarah Storey is going for a 15th gold medal at the Tokyo Games

The Paralympic Games begin in Tokyo on 24 August and run for 12 days up until 5 September. Despite the absence of fans from the Olympics, the Games exceeded expectations with all the thrills and spills throughout the event.

Now it’s time for the Paralympians to take to the stage as they look to steal the show in Japan.

Here is an extensive all-you-need-to-know guide to the various sports, categories and classifications that will be on offer over the next fortnight.

List of Paralympic sports at the Tokyo 2020 Games:

  • Archery
  • Athletics
  • Badminton
  • Boccia
  • Canoe
  • Cycling
  • Equestrian
  • Football 5-a-side
  • Goalball
  • Judo
  • Powerlifting
  • Rowing
  • Shooting Para sport
  • Sitting volleyball
  • Swimming
  • Table tennis
  • Taekwondo
  • Triathlon
  • Wheelchair basketball
  • Wheelchair fencing
  • Wheelchair rugby
  • Wheelchair tennis

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Ten eligible impairments:

Impaired muscle power – Athletes with impaired muscle power have a health condition that either reduces or eliminates their ability to voluntarily contract their muscles in order to move or to generate force. Examples of an underlying health condition that may lead to impaired muscle power include spinal cord injury.

Impaired passive range of movement – Athletes with impaired passive range of movement have a restriction or a lack of passive movement in one or more joints. Examples of an underlying health condition that may lead to impaired passive range of movement include arthrogryposis and contracture resulting from chronic joint immobilisation or trauma affecting a joint.

Limb deficiency – Athletes with limb deficiency have total or partial absence of bones or joints as a consequence of trauma (for example traumatic amputation), illness (for example amputation due to bone cancer) or congenital limb deficiency (for example dysmelia).

Leg length difference – Athletes with leg length difference have a difference in the length of their legs as a result of a disturbance of limb growth, or as a result of trauma.

Short stature – Athletes with short stature have a reduced length in the bones of the arms, legs and/or trunk. Examples of an underlying health condition that may lead to short stature include achondroplasia, growth hormone dysfunction, and osteogenesis imperfecta.

Hypertonia (muscle tension) – Athletes with hypertonia have an increase in muscle tension and a reduced ability of a muscle to stretch caused by damage to the central nervous system. Examples of an underlying health condition that may lead to hypertonia include cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and stroke.

Ataxia (uncoordinated movements) – Athletes with Ataxia have uncoordinated movements caused by damage to the central nervous system. Examples of an underlying health condition that may lead to Ataxia include: cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, stroke and multiple sclerosis.

Athetosis (involuntary movements) – Athletes with Athetosis have continual slow involuntary movements. Examples of an underlying health condition that may lead to Athetosis include cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and stroke. For the purposes of this document athetosis will be referred to as involuntary movements” for the rest of this document.

Vision impairment – Athletes with a vision impairment have reduced or no vision caused by damage to the eye structure, optical nerves or optical pathways, or visual cortex of the brain. Examples of an underlying health condition that may lead to vision impairment include retinitis pigmentosa and diabetic retinopathy.

Note – The following is the general structure used for the classification of athletes with a vision impairment (with exception for VI-shooting):

B1: The clarity of these athletes vision is very low and/ or they have no light perception.

B2: Athletes with a B2 sport class have a better clarity of vision than athletes competing in the B1 sport class and/ or a visual field of less than 10 degrees diameter.

B3: Athletes with a B3 (or equivalent) sport class have the least severe vision impairment eligible for Paralympic sport. They have a better clarity of vision than athletes competing in the B2 sport class and/or a visual field of less than 40 degrees diameter.

Intellectual impairment – Athletes with an intellectual Impairment have a restriction in intellectual functioning and adaptive behaviour which affects conceptual, social and practical adaptive skills required for everyday life. This Impairment must be present before the age of 18.

Classifications at the Paralympic Games

Archery

The eligible impairments for archery at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Limb deficiency
  • Muscle tension
  • Uncoordinated movements

Two classes:

W1 – Archers in this sport class compete in a wheelchair because their impairment includes the loss of leg and trunk function. Also, their arms show a loss of muscle strength, co-ordination or range of movement. For example, one condition that might fit this sport class profile is tetraplegia.

Open – Athletes may have an impairment in the legs and use a wheelchair or have a balance impairment and shoot standing or resting on a stool. Open category athletes may shoot in recurve or compound competitions, under standard rules, and the category is featured at the Paralympic Games.

Athletics

The eligible impairments for athletics at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Involuntary movements
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Muscle tension
  • Limb deficiency
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Leg length difference
  • Short stature
  • Intellectual impairment
  • Vision impairment

Classes in athletics:

In athletics the sport class consists of a prefix ‘T’ or ‘F’ and a number. The prefix T stands for ‘track’ and jumping events, and F stands for ‘field’.

Vision Impairment – T/F11-T/F13:

Intellectual impairment – T20/F20: Athletes in this sport class have an intellectual impairment, which typically leads to the athletes having difficulties with regards to pattern recognition, sequencing, and memory which impacts sport performance in general. Moreover, the impairment of T/F20 athletes has been proven to have an impact on performance in the different disciplines. For example: 1,500m runners have difficulties in pacing, while in long jump the impairment makes the anticipation of the take-off board more difficult.

Coordination impairments – F31, T32/F32-T38/F38: The 30s sport classes are allocated to athletes with involuntary movements, uncoordinated movements and/or muscle tension – often conditions associated with cerebral palsy or traumatic brain injury. The impairments typically affect the ability to control legs, trunk, arms and/or hand function. You will see athletes in the sport classes 31-34 compete in a seated position, e.g. in wheelchair racing or using a throwing chair. By contrast, athletes in the sport classes 35-38 show a better function in their legs and better trunk control and therefore compete standing, e.g. in running events, long jump or throwing events.

Short Stature – T40/F40, T41/F41: Athletes with short stature compete in the sport classes T/F40-41. There are two classes depending on the body height of the athlete and the proportionality of the arms, with athletes in sport class T/F41 being taller than athletes in sport class T/F40.

Limb deficiencies – T42/F42 – T46/F46, T47; T/F61-64: These sport classes are designated for athletes with limb deficiencies, such as amputations or missing or shortened limbs from birth. All athletes in the 40s classes compete standing and do not use a wheelchair. In the sport classes 42-44 the legs are affected by the impairment and in the sport classes 45-47 the arms are affected, for example by above or below elbow amputations. Athletes with a leg deficiency who compete with a prosthesis are competing in classes T/F61- 64. For example, a shot putter with leg length difference competes in sport class F42. A shot putter with a single above knee amputation wearing a prosthesis competes in sport class F63.

Impaired muscle power or impaired range of movement – T51-54; F51-57: In the 50s sport classes, all athletes compete in a seated position, either in wheelchair or on a throwing chair, due to impaired muscle power, restricted range of movement, limb deficiency or leg length difference. A lower number indicates a higher activity limitation.

Athletes competing in wheelchair racing events for T51-54 sport classes differ with regard to their arm, shoulder and trunk functions which are pertinent for pushing a wheelchair. Athletes in classes T51-52 have activity limitations in both legs and arms. Athletes in class T53 have full function in the arms, but have severely restricted trunk function. Athletes competing in T54 have partial to complete trunk function and may demonstrate some leg function. For field events, the group of wheelchair athletes compete in more differentiated classes.

Athletes in sport classes F51-53 have limited shoulder, arm and hand function to different degrees and usually no trunk or leg function. This profile is, for example, seen with athletes with spinal cord injury resulting in tetraplegia. Athletes in the class F54 have normal function in their shoulders, arms and hands, but generally no trunk or leg function.

Throughout the sport classes F55-57 the trunk and leg function increases, which is an advantage in throwing events. An athlete in the F55 class has partial to full abdominal muscle activity, but no leg function. Athletes in class F56 can partially bend their hips and legs in addition to having trunk function, while athletes in class F57 demonstrate the additional ability to extend and abduct the hips. Athletes in class F57 may be able to stand and walk with or without an assistive device, but have to at the very least comply with the defined minimum impairment criteria.

Badminton

The eligible impairments for badminton at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Involuntary movements
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Muscle tension
  • Limb deficiency
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Leg length difference
  • Short stature

Classes in badminton:

Wheelchair 1 WH 1 – Players in this class requires a wheelchair to play badminton. Players in this Sport Class usually have an impairment in both their legs and trunk.

Wheelchair 2 WH 2 – A player in this class could have an impairment in one or both legs and minimal or no impairment of the trunk.

Standing lower SL 3 – In this class a player must play standing. The player could have an impairment in one or both legs and poor walking/running balance.

Standing lower SL 4 – A second standing class where the player has a lesser impairment compared to Sport Class SL 3. The player could have an impairment in one or both legs and a minimal impairment in walking/running balance.

Standing upper SU 5 – The player in this class has an arm impairment due to muscle tension/uncoordinated movement/involuntary movements paralysis of one side of the body (hemiplegia)/ paralysis affecting symmetrical parts of the body e.g. arms, face, legs (diplegia) / paralysis restricted to one limb or region of the body (monoplegia), limb deficiency, Impaired Passive Range of Motion (PROM) or Impaired Muscle Power.

Short Stature SH 6 – These are players who have a short stature.

Boccia

The eligible impairments for boccia at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Involuntary movements
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Muscle tension
  • Limb deficiency
  • Uncoordinated movements

Classes in boccia:

There are four sport classes in boccia, BC1-4. All players compete in wheelchairs due to a loss of leg function and trunk stability, caused by a lack of muscle coordination, muscle power and control.

BC1 – Athletes in sport class BC1 have severe activity limitations affecting their legs, arms and trunk due to co-ordination impairments, and are typically dependent on a powered wheelchair. They can grasp and throw the ball and do not use assistive devices. Athletes with some leg control are allowed to propel the ball with their foot.

BC2 – Boccia players in sport class BC2 have better trunk control and arm function than the players in BC1. The abilities of their arms and hands often allow them to throw the ball overhand and underhand and with a variety of grasps. They are not eligible for assistance.

BC3 – Athletes competing in sport class BC3 have significantly limited function in their arms and legs, and poor or no trunk control due to cerebral or non-cerebral origins. Besides, they are unable to consistently grasp or release the ball and to help them propel the ball onto the court, they use a ramp and other assistive devices to roll the ball with the help of a Sport Assistant.

BC4 – While the sport classes BC1-2 include athletes with muscle tension, involuntary movements or uncoordinated movements, sport class BC4 comprises athletes with impairments that have no cerebral origin. Among possible health conditions are progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass (muscular dystrophy), spinal cord Injuries or amputations affecting all four limbs. Players throw the ball usually with a pendulum swing, sometimes using both hands or arms. They may use a glove to sustain their grip of the ball.

Para Canoe

The eligible impairments for para canoe at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Limb deficiency

Classes in para canoe:

Athletes can compete in two types of boat, kayak (K) and va’a (V). The kayak is propelled by a double blade paddle, while the va’a is an outrigger canoe propelled by a single-blade paddle. These athletes all have a physical impairment. Kayak and Va’a are different disciplines, each with a specific classification (KL and VL respectively) which is based on the same principle.

KL1 – Athletes in this sports class have very limited trunk and no leg function.

KL2 – Athletes in this sports class have partial trunk and leg function; they are able to sit upright in the kayak. Along with this, they will have limited leg movement during paddling.

KL3 – Athletes in this sports class have trunk and partial leg function, they are able to sit with their trunk bent forward in the kayak and able to use at least one leg/prosthesis.

VL1 – The athletes allocated in this sport class have no dynamic trunk function which is defined as not being able to sit upright on a bench with the legs hanging whilst the thighs and/or pelvis are secured and not bending the trunk forwards, backwards, sideways or rotating. These athletes should also not have any leg function.

VL2 – Athletes with partial trunk and leg function, able to sit upright in the Va’a but might need a special backrest, limited leg movement during paddling.

VL3 – This class will include the athletes with full dynamic trunk function or almost full dynamic trunk function.

Cycling

The eligible impairments for cycling at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Involuntary movements
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Muscle tension
  • Limb deficiency
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Leg length difference
  • Vision Impairment

Classes in cycling:

Athletes with physical impairments either compete on handcycles, tricycles or bicycles. Athletes with a vision impairment compete on tandems with a sighted ‘pilot’.

Handcycle sport classes: H1-H5 – There are five different sport classes for handcycle, and lower numbers indicate a more severe activity limitation. Athletes classified in handcycle classes H1-4 compete on a hand bike where a reclining position is mandatory. Athletes competing in the H1 class do not have any trunk and leg function and have limited arm function, e.g. because of spinal-cord injuries. Athletes in the H4 class have no leg function but good trunk and arm function. Athletes classified in the Handcycle class H5 compete from a kneeling position (HK) and can thus use their arms and trunk to accelerate the handcycle. Athletes in this sport class might have leg amputations, paraplegia or mild to moderate involuntary movements or uncoordinated movements.

Tricycle sport classes: T1, T2 – Tricycle athletes are divided into two classes, T1 and T2. Athletes in the Tricycle division are unable to ride a bicycle due to lack of balance and/or restriction in pedalling due to muscle tension, uncoordinated movements or involuntary movements. The sport class T1 is allocated to athletes with more significant balance, co-ordination impairments and problems controlling movements than athletes competing in sport class T2.

Cycling sport classes: C1-C5 – Athletes who are able to use a standard bicycle (with approved adaptations) compete in the five sport classes C1-5. The sport class profiles include athletes with limb deficiency, impaired muscle power or range of motion and impairments affecting co-ordination, such as uncoordinated movements and involuntary movements. Sport class C1 is allocated to athletes with the most severe activity limitation, while the sport class C5 is allocated to athletes with minimum impairments.

For example, cyclists with a double below-the-knee amputation who use a prosthesis are likely to compete in the sport class C3, while an athlete with a below knee amputation and a prosthesis on one leg would compete in the sport class C4.

Tandem sport classes: TB – Cyclists with a vision impairment race tandem with a sighted cycler (pilot) in front. Cyclists in this sport class must meet the criteria as set out in the B3 profile described in section 4 to compete, therefore B1, B2 and B3 athletes compete together in one event.

Equestrian

The eligible impairments for equestrian at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Involuntary movements
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Muscle tension
  • Limb deficiency
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Leg length difference
  • Short stature
  • Vision Impairment

Classes in equestrian:

In Para equestrian dressage riding there are five grades for athletes with different physical and vision impairments which are grouped on the basis of different medical profiles. Lower grades indicate more severe activity limitations and higher grades include athletes with less severe activity limitations.

Grade I – Athletes in grade I have severe impairments affecting all limbs and the trunk. The athlete usually requires the use of a wheelchair in daily life. They may be able to walk with an unsteady gait. Trunk and balance are severely impaired. Profiles: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 12a, 13

Grade II – Athletes in grade II have either a severe impairment of the trunk and minimal impairment of the arms or moderate impairment of the trunk, arms and legs. Most athletes in this grade use a wheelchair in daily life. Profiles: 4, 6, 9, 10a, 11a, 12b, 31a

Grade III – Athletes in grade III have severe impairments in both legs with minimal or no impairment of the trunk or moderate impairment of the arms, legs and trunk. Some athletes in this grade may use a wheelchair in daily life. Profiles: 8, 10b, 11b, 14, 17a, 18a, 27, 31b, 32

Grade IV – Athletes in grade IV have a severe impairment or deficiency of both arms or a moderate impairment of all four limbs or short stature. Athletes in grade IV are able to walk and generally do not require a wheelchair in daily life. Grade IV also includes athletes with a vision impairment. Profiles: 15, 17b, 18b, 19a, 21, 25, 26a, 28, 36

Grade V – Athletes in Grade V have a mild impairment affecting the range of movement or muscle strength or a deficiency of one limb or a mild deficiency of two limbs. Grade V also includes athletes with a vision impairment. Profiles: 16, 19b, 20, 22, 23, 24, 26b, 37a

Football 5-a-side

The eligible impairments for football at the Paralympics are:

  • Vision impairment

Classes in football 5-a-side:

Only athletes who have a B1 sport class may compete in football 5-aside. This classification applies to the field players. In addition, each team has a sighted, able bodied goalkeeper, who does not need to undergo classification. To ensure fair competition all players (except for the goalkeeper) must wear eyeshades.

Goalball

The eligible impairments for goalball at the Paralympics are:

  • Vision impairment

Classes in goalball:

Athletes competing in goalball all have varying degrees of vision impairments ranging from the B1 to B3 sport classes. In order to ensure a fair competition between the teams, all players must wear eyeshades during the game.

Judo

The eligible impairments for judo at the Paralympics are:

  • Vision impairment

Classes in judo:

Judoka all have varying degrees of vision impairments ranging from the B1 to B3 sport classes. Therefore B1, B2 and B3 athletes compete together in one event.

Powerlifting

The eligible impairments for powerlifting at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Involuntary movements
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Muscle tension
  • Limb deficiency
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Leg length difference
  • Short stature

Classes in powerlifting:

There is only one sport class in powerlifting, but the athletes compete in different weight categories. Powerlifting is open to athletes with all eight eligible physical impairments. All athletes have an impairment in their legs or hips, which would prohibit them from competing in able-bodied (standing) weightlifting. In powerlifting, they therefore compete in the bench press.

Rowing

The eligible impairments for rowing at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Involuntary movements
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Muscle tension
  • Limb deficiency
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Vision impairment

Classes in rowing:

PR1 – Includes rowers with minimal or no trunk function who primarily propel the boat through arm and shoulder function. These rowers have poor sitting balance, which requires them to be strapped to the boat/seat.

PR2 – Includes rowers that have functional use of their arms and trunk but have weakness/absence of leg function to slide the seat.

PR3 – Include rowers with residual function in their legs which allows them to slide the seat. This class also includes athletes with a vision impairment.

Shooting

The eligible impairments for shooting at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Involuntary movements
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Muscle tension
  • Limb deficiency
  • Uncoordinated movements

Classes in shooting:

In shooting, there are three different sport classes for Paralympic disciplines (pistol, rifle). These sport classes are specific to the event the athlete competes in – either pistol or rifle events.

SH1 (Pistol) -In this sport class athletes can support the full weight of the pistol themselves. As the pistol is held with one hand only, athletes in this sport class have an impairment affecting one arm and/or the legs, for example resulting from amputations or spinal cord injuries. Some shooters compete in a seated position, while others will compete in a standing position as defined in the sport rules.

SH1 (Rifle) – In this sport class athletes can support the full weight of the rifle themselves. As the rifle is held with both hands, athletes in this sport class have an impairment in their legs, for example amputations or paraplegia. Some athletes will compete in a seated position, while others will compete in a standing position.

SH2 (Rifle) – In this sport class athletes have an impairment that affects their arms, meaning they are not able to support the full weight of the rifles themselves. Athletes therefore compete using a shooting stand to support the weight of the rifle. Athletes competing in this sport class have impairments such as arm amputations or congenital impairments affecting the muscle power/movement in their arms. Some SH2 shooters have impairments in both the arms and legs, such as tetraplegia. The majority of athletes in this sport class compete in a seated position.

SG-S (Trap) – Athletes with poor balance and/or trunk stability compete from a wheelchair in a standard seated position. Athletes have an impairment in the leg(s), but no functional limitation in the arms.

SG-L (Trap) – Athletes with good balance and trunk function compete from a standing position. Athletes have an impairment in the leg(s), but no functional limitation in the arms.

SG-U (Trap) – Athletes with good balance and trunk function compete from a standing position. Athletes have an impairment in the non-shooting arm.

SH-VI (Rifle) – VI-Shooting: athletes must have either a clarity of vision above 1.1 logMAR or a contrast sensitivity poorer or equal to 1.4logCS.

Sitting Volleyball

The eligible impairments for volleyball at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Involuntary movements
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Muscle tension
  • Limb deficiency
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Leg length difference

Classes in sitting volleyball:

There are two sport classes in sitting volleyball, called VS1 and VS2. The impairment of athletes in sport class VS2 is generally less severe than the impairment of athletes competing in sport class VS1.

VS1 – These athletes have impairments that significantly affect the core functions in sitting volleyball. For example, through-ankle or higher amputation, severe cases of missing or shortened limbs from birth, stiff knee due to abnormal adhesion and rigidity of the bones of the joint (ankylosed), muscle tension, uncoordinated movements and involuntary movements, etc.

VS2 – These athletes have impairments that affect the core functions in sitting volleyball to a lesser degree. For example, amputation through the foot/feet (Lisfranc amputation), stiff (ankylosed) ankle due to abnormal adhesion and rigidity of the bones of the joint, amputation of four digits on one hand, less severe muscle tension, uncoordinated movements and involuntary movements, etc.

Swimming

The eligible impairments for swimming at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Involuntary movements
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Muscle tension
  • Limb deficiency
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Leg length difference
  • Short stature
  • Intellectual impairment
  • Vision Impairment

Classes in swimming:

The sport class names in swimming consist of a prefix ‘S’ or ‘SB’ and a number. The prefixes stand for:

  • S: freestyle, butterfly and backstroke events
  • SB: breaststroke
  • SM: individual medley. The prefix ‘SM’ is given to athletes competing in individual medley events. It is not a sports class, but an entry index and calculated as (3xS + SB)/4; for classes S1-4 who have a 3-discipline medley, the formula is (2S + SB)/3).

Note: Athletes with different impairments compete against each other, because sport classes are allocated based on the impact the impairment has on swimming, rather than on the impairment itself.

Physical impairment classes:

S1 SB1 – Swimmers in this sport class have a significant loss of muscle power or control in their legs, arms and hands. Some athletes also have limited trunk control. This may be caused by tetraplegia, for example. Swimmers in this class usually use a wheelchair in daily life.

S2 SB1 – Swimmers in this sport class mainly rely on their arms for swimming. Their hand, trunk and leg function is limited due to tetraplegia or co-ordination problems, for example.

S3 SB2 – This sport class includes athletes with amputations of both arms and legs. Swimmers with reasonable arm strokes but no use of their legs or trunk, and swimmers with severe co-ordination problems in all limbs are also included in this sport class.

S4 SB3 – Swimmers who can use their arms and have fair function in their hands, but who cannot use their trunk or legs swim in this sport class. Athletes with amputations of three limbs could also swim in this sport class.

S5 SB4 – Swimmers with short stature and an additional impairment, with loss of control over one side of their body (hemiplegia) or with paraplegia compete in this sport class.

S6 SB5 – This sport class includes swimmers with short stature or amputations of both arms, or moderate co-ordination problems on one side of their body, for example.

S7 SB6 – This sport class is for athletes with one leg and one arm amputation on opposite sides, or a paralysis of one arm and one leg on the same side. Moreover, swimmers with full control over arms and trunk and some leg function can compete in this class.

S8 SB7 – Swimmers who have an amputation of one arm are eligible to compete in this sport class. Also, athletes with significant restrictions across hip, knee and ankle joints could compete in this sport class.

S9 SB8 – Athletes in this sport class, for example, swim with joint restrictions in one leg or with double below-the-knee amputations.

S10 SB9 – This class describes minimal physical impairments of eligible swimmers. These include the loss of one hand or a movement restriction in one hip joint.

Vision impairment classes: Athletes with a vision impairment compete in three sport classes from S/SB11 (B1) to S/SB13 (B3) as described in section 4. In order to ensure a fair competition athletes in the S/SB11 sport class are required to wear blackened goggles. To ensure safety all S/SB11 swimmers must use a tapper. Swimmers in the S/SB12 and S/SB13 sport classes may choose whether or not they wish to use one.

Intellectual impairment classes: S14 swimmers have an intellectual impairment, which typically leads to the athletes having difficulties with regards to pattern recognition, sequencing, and memory, which impact on sport performance in general.

Table tennis

The eligible impairments for table tennis at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Involuntary movements
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Muscle tension
  • Limb deficiency
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Leg length difference
  • Short stature
  • Intellectual impairment

Classes in table tennis:

In table tennis, players with physical impairments compete in sport classes 1-10 and athletes with an intellectual impairment compete in sport class 11. Below is a detailed breakdown of all 11 sport classes.

Sitting classes: Athletes in the sport classes 1-5 compete in a wheelchair.

Sport class 1 – Class 1 players have no sitting balance and a significantly affected playing arm, for example due to tetraplegia. Players often use the support of their non-playing arm to maintain their sitting balance.

Sport class 2 – Players in this sport class also have no sitting balance, and their playing arm is moderately affected. Like the players in sport class 1, they tape the racket to the hand to make up for limited grip function.

Sport class 3 – Players in sport class 3 have full hand and arm function. With their good arm function, they can manoeuvre the wheelchair while maintaining good balance of their upper body. The athlete’s impairment may result from spinal cord injuries or neurological conditions, such as cerebral palsy.

Sport class 4 – Class 4 players have some sitting balance and fully functional arms and hands. They can move to the front to meet their opponent’s serve.

Sport class 5 – This sport class includes athletes who compete in a wheelchair, and have normal sitting balance, arm and hand function. With the good trunk function, they can stretch out to the sides to hit the ball. The sport class includes athletes with lower spinal cord injuries.

Standing classes: Athletes in sport classes 6-10 compete standing.

Sport class 6 – Class 6 players have impairments affecting both arms and legs and play standing. The sport class includes, for example, athletes with uncoordinated movements, involuntary movements or muscle tension which affects the legs and the playing arm. These impairments impact the balance and the quality of strokes.

Sport class 7 – Class 7 players either have significant impairments of both legs or the playing arm, or impairments affecting arms and legs moderately (e.g. CP paralysis of one side of the body or paralysis affecting symmetrical parts of the body (e.g. arms, face or legs)). For example, a player with an amputation of the playing arm above the elbow could compete in this sport class.

Sport class 8 – Athletes with a moderate impairment of their legs or moderately affected playing arm compete in this sport class. An athlete with muscle weakness in one leg due to polio would for example compete in this sport class.

Sport class 9 – Class 9 players have mild impairments affecting the legs or the playing arm. Athletes with a stiff knee (i.e. CP with a weakening of one side of the body (hemiparesis) or paralysis affecting one limb or area of the body) or restricted elbow of the playing arm compete in this sport class. Also, athletes who have significant impairments in the non-playing arm compete in this sport class. This will impact serving the ball.

Sport class 10 – Players in this sport class have relatively mild impairments, such as a stiff ankle or wrist of the playing arm. Players with short stature may also play in sport class 10.

Sport class 11 – Intellectual impairment: Table tennis players with an intellectual impairment typically have difficulties with: pattern recognition, sequencing, and memory which all have an impact on table tennis skills, tactics and performance.

Taekwondo

The eligible impairments for taekwondo at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Involuntary movements
  • Muscle tension
  • Limb deficiency
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Leg length difference
  • Intellectual impairment

Classes in taekwondo:

Para Taekwondo competitions has two disciplines Kyorugi and Poomsae. Classes competing in Kyorugi will have the “K” prefix. Classes competing in Poomsae will have the “P” prefix. The following Sport Classes are used for Para Taekwondo.

Currently only Kyorugi events for sport class K44 and for certain weight categories are part of the Paralympic Games program. These medal events however are also open to athletes in sport class K43.

K43 – Athletes have restrictions on both sides of their body in the arm below the elbow joint.

K44 – Athletes have restrictions on one side in the arm or leg.

Para triathlon

The eligible impairments for para triathlon at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Involuntary movements
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Muscle tension
  • Limb deficiency
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Vision Impairment

Classes in para triathlon:

PTWC1 AND PTWC2 (Wheelchair racing para triathletes) – Para triathletes in this class swim, cycle on a handbike and compete in a racing wheelchair for the run section. This class includes athletes with, but not limited to, impairments of muscle power, range of movement, limb deficiency such as single or double leg amputation, spinal cord injuries resulting in paraplegia or tetraplegia. The two classes PTWC1 and PTWC2 have a different activity limitation based on trunk and hip functionality and compete together in the PTWC event using a start interval system.

PTS2-5 (Ambulant para triathletes):

PTS2 – This class includes athletes with a severe degree of activity limitation resulting from impairments of, but not limited to, limb deficiency, muscle tension, uncoordinated movements and or involuntary movements, impaired muscle power or range of movement. Health conditions could include severe cerebral palsy, paralysis of one side of the body from birth, above the knee amputation, etc. In both bike and run segments, amputee athletes may use an approved prosthesis or other supportive devices.

PTS3 – This class includes athletes with a significant degree of activity limitation resulting from impairments of, but not limited to, limb deficiency, muscle tension, uncoordinated movements and or involuntary movements, impaired muscle power or range of movement. Health conditions could include athletes with significant spastic paralysis of one side of the body, cerebral palsy, double below-knee amputation, impaired arm and legs, etc. In both bike and run segments, amputee athletes may use an approved prosthesis or other supportive devices.

PTS4 – This class includes athletes with a moderate degree of activity limitation resulting from impairments of, but not limited to, limb deficiency, muscle tension, uncoordinated movements and or involuntary movements, impaired muscle power or range of movement. Health conditions could include a moderate spastic cerebral palsy, complete brachial-plexus18 on one arm, through the shoulder amputation, one below-the-knee amputation, etc. In both bike and run segments, amputee athletes may use an approved prosthesis or other supportive devices.

PTS5 – This sport class includes athletes with a mild degree of activity limitation such as athletes with, but not limited to, a below the elbow arm amputation, partial loss of arm muscle power, leg deficiency, etc. This class includes athletes with a mild degree of activity limitation resulting from impairments of but not limited to, limb deficiency, impaired muscle power or range of movement. Health conditions could include athletes where the arm is missing or shortened below the elbow (from birth), clubfoot, through the wrist amputation, partial brachial-plexus on one arm, through the ankle amputation, etc. In both bike and run segments, amputee athletes may use an approved prosthesis or other supportive devices.

Vision impairment – Athletes with a vision impairment belong to either one of the three sport classes from PTVI (B1) to PTVI3 (B3). They compete together in a PTVI event using a start interval system.

Wheelchair basketball

The eligible impairments for wheelchair basketball at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Involuntary movements
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Muscle tension
  • Limb deficiency
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Leg length difference

Classes in wheelchair basketball:

All athletes compete in a wheelchair and have an impairment affecting their legs and arms. Players, for example, have amputations or paraplegia. Not all the players are wheelchair users in daily life. While most athletes have normal arm and hand function, the main differences between athletes of different sport classes are trunk control and sitting balance, which allows them to lean forward and sideways to catch and pass the ball.

1.0 – Players in sport class 1.0 have no trunk control and thus cannot bend forward or sideways or rotate to catch and pass the ball. To keep a stable position, the backrest of the wheelchair is a bit higher and the athletes are strapped to the wheelchair.

2.0 – These players can lean forward and rotate their body to some extent, allowing them to catch the ball within a larger radius. Like their team members in sport class 1.0, their wheelchairs have a higher backrest and strapping for trunk support.

3.0 – This profile describes players who can fully rotate and lean forward, but cannot lean to the sides. As they do not need sitting support, their wheelchair has a low backrest.

4.0 – While 4.0 players can move forward and rotate like their team members in sport class 3.0, they can partially lean to the sides as well. Often players in this sport class can lean to one side only, for example, because an impairment in one leg would cause a loss of balance to the other side.

4.5 – Players in this sport class have the lowest degree of eligible impairment and have no restriction in trunk rotation or leaning forward or sideways. Players with a foot amputation or a 6 cm leg length difference would be eligible for this sport class. An athlete can also be allocated the sport classes 1.5, 2.5 or 3.5. The activity profile of these ‘half-pointers’ fits in between the profiles of the lower and higher class.

Wheelchair fencing

The eligible impairments for wheelchair fencing at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Involuntary movements
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Muscle tension
  • Limb deficiency
  • Uncoordinated movements

Classes in wheelchair fencing:

1A – Athletes without sitting balance who also have a restriction in the fencing arm.

1B – Athletes without sitting balance and restrictions in the fencing arm which are less severe to Class 1A.

2 – Athletes with fair sitting balance and a normal fencing arm, e.g. paraplegic athletes (type T1-T9) or incomplete tetraplegics with a minimally affected fencing arm and good sitting balance.

3 – Athletes with good sitting balance, without support of legs and normal fencing arm.

4 – Athletes with good sitting balance with the support of legs and normal fencing arm.

Currently at official IWF (International Wheelchair Fencing) competitions, the sport classes are combined into the following three categories for each event:

  • Category A: sport classes 3 and 4
  • Category B: sport class 2
  • Category C: sport classes 1A and 1B

Wheelchair rugby

The eligible impairments for wheelchair rugby at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Involuntary movements
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Muscle tension
  • Limb deficiency
  • Uncoordinated movements

Classes in wheelchair rugby:

0.5 – Players in sport class 0.5 have significantly impaired movement in their shoulder, arms and hands, for example due to tetraplegia or similar neurological health conditions. These players typically catch the ball by scooping it into their lap and throw the ball with a 2-handed flick pass or bunt pass. Their main role on the court is as a defender.

1.0 – Athletes in this class have more balanced shoulder strength than players in the 0.5 sport class so their arms are held closer to their body when they are pushing. These players may inbound the ball but are not major ball handlers due to having an impairment affecting their elbow, wrist and hand function. The typical role on court is a defender.

1.5 – A player in sport class 1.5 has fair arm function around shoulders, elbows and wrists, which allows the player to be an excellent defender. A 1.5 player will also handle the ball more frequently, but typically they show some weakness in the wrist and hands, which leads to limited ball security and accuracy in passing the ball. Some athletes in this class may also have asymmetrical arm function, so that they mainly handle the ball with their stronger arm only.

2.0 – The athletes in this class have good shoulder strength and stability which allows for very effective pushing. However, there is often impairment or loss of finger function which limits ball security and overhead passes. Athletes with limb deficiency that includes the loss of hands and forearms may also appear in this sport class. These players often play the role of ball handler on court and have very good speed in wheelchair activities.

2.5 – Players in this sport class have good shoulder, elbow and wrist strength. They might have some trunk muscle control present which improves their balance in the wheelchair and improves the efficiency of their wheelchair activities. These players may have some ability to use their fingers, and this can enhance the security and accuracy of overhead passes and also improve their ability to catch the ball. Well balanced strength in the arms means that these players can manoeuvre the wheelchair very effectively. These players are good ball handlers and fairly fast offensive players.

3.0 – Players in this sport class have excellent shoulder, elbow and wrist strength. For players who have neurological health conditions, there will usually be some finger or thumb weakness present. For players with limb deficiency, they may have partial loss of the palm of the hand including fingers/thumb. Players in this sport class generally have strong ball security in all positions, including overhead, both with one or two hands. Players in this sport class often have some activity in their trunk muscles that enhances both their ball control and wheelchair activities. They can dribble the ball very effectively. Typically, their role on court is as very good ball handlers and fast play makers.

3.5 – A 3.5 player has excellent arm strength and good hand strength, which makes the player a major ball handler and a fast play maker in the team. Players in this sport class often have some trunk muscles, which helps them to rapidly accelerate their wheelchair. This will also typically allow them to have a high and upright sitting position in their wheelchair. For players with a limb deficiency, they may have partial loss of the palm of the hand and fingers/thumb. You will see 3.5 players perform controlled one-handed, long-distance passes with a high degree of accuracy.

Wheelchair tennis

The eligible impairments for wheelchair tennis at the Paralympics are:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Involuntary movements
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Muscle tension
  • Limb deficiency
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Leg length difference

Classes in wheelchair tennis:

There are two sport classes in wheelchair tennis and all players have in common that they have an impairment that affects at least one leg.

Open division – Players are eligible to compete in the Open division if they have a permanent physical disability that results in substantial loss of function in one or both legs that meets or exceeds the sport’s minimum eligibility criteria.

Quad division – Players who meet the eligibility criteria above but who also have a permanent physical disability that results in substantial loss of function in one or both arms, and where at least three limbs are affected, are eligible to compete in the Quad division. They have limited ability to handle the racket or to move in the wheelchair, so you will find that players may require racket taping and/or an assistive device in order to play.

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