London, Sochi, Rio, Pyeongchang, Tokyo…

Mar 04, 2014
Tagged with: London, Sochi, Rio, Pyeongchang, Tokyo...

Beginning this Friday, over 700 athletes from 44 nations will compete in five sports at the Winter Paralympics in Sochi.  I am thrilled that NBC will be showing live coverage of the games for the first time ever, but I am kind of tired of the cold weather and the teasers of spring and summer that have been coming and going in Birmingham. Since in my mind I am at the beach, I’d like to focus on a warmer sporting event. It is the third largest sporting event in the world behind the Summer Olympics and the World Cup; the Summer Paralympics.  The games have come a long way from Dr. Ludwig Gutman’s Stoke-Mandeville Games, and the first official Paralympic Games, held in Rome, Italy, in 1960. During the London 2012 games, over 4,000 athletes, from 164 countries competed in 20 different sports. In 2016, athletes will compete in 22 different sports, with Paracanoe and Paratriathlon making their Paralympic debut.

With my mind skipping spring and going straight to summer, I’m also not focused on the next games, Rio 2016, I’m thinking even farther than that, I’m thinking Tokyo 2020.  The process has already begun for adaptive sports competing for an official spot in the 2020 games. There are six sports and three disciplines vying for a chance to compete, here is a little bit about each:


  • Para-badminton – The Badminton World Federation, acknowledged by the IOC, is responsible for overseeing Para-badminton. Over 40 countries world-wide have national associations for the sport. Players are classified into one of six groups – wheelchair (WH1 and WH2), standing (SL3, SL4, SL5), and short stature (SS6). They then compete in singles, doubles, or mixed doubles. Players use a racket to hit a shuttle over the net, The team reaching 21 points first, by at least two, wins that match. Athletes play the best of three matches.
  • Para-Taekwondo – The World Taekwondo Federation developed a branch for Para-taekwondo in 2005.  Originally there was only one division, “kyorugi,” for arm amputees.  In 2013 a second division, “Poomsae,” was developed and is now the classification for individuals with CP, intellectual disabilities, and visual impairments. Taekwondo has been an official event in the Deaflympics since 2009 and the WTF was officially designated an International Federation by the IOC in 2013.
  • Electric Wheelchair Hockey – Like many power chair sports, Electric Wheelchair Hockey developed in various forms all over the world in the 1970’s and 80’s. Each country had a different name and variations on rules, but the premise was the same; athletes in power chairs using sticks to hit a ball into a net. In 2002, leaders from national committees developed the International Committee for Electric Wheelchair Hockey. Teams play 6 vs. 6. EWH is specifically for people who use power chairs on a daily basis. The rules are similar to able-bodied hockey, with variations based on equipment.
  • Powerchair Football (aka Power Soccer) – Like EWH, Power Soccer was played in many countries before an official organization was created. FIFPA (Federation International de Powerchair Football Association) officially came into existence in 2005. Athletes have various disabilities including MD, MS, CP, and spinal cord injuries. Teams play two 20-minute halves, 4 vs. 4, on a basketball court. As in able-bodied soccer, the team with the most points at the end of the match wins.
  • 3-on-3 Intellectually Impaired Basketball – Competitors with an IQ under 70 qualify to compete in intellectually impaired classifications of Paralympic sports. This classification was first introduced in 1996. After the 2000 games in Sydney, 3-on-3 Intellectually Impaired Basketball was removed from the Paralympics when it was discovered that players on the Spanish team had not been properly tested and did not qualify for the games.
  • Amputee Football (aka Amputee Soccer) – Amputee Football is played by teams all over the world. International play requires teams to play 7 vs. 7, for two 25 minute halves. Field players can have two hands but only one foot, while goalies may have both feet but can only have one hand. All players use metal crutches.  Rules are similar to able-bodied soccer with the exception of no off-sides, smaller fields, and kick-ins instead of throw-ins.


  • One-person multi-hull, sailing – Sailing has been a Paralympic sport since 1996. There have historically been three divisions in sailing. Paralympic Sailing is open to men and women with physical disabilities including visual impairments, spinal cord injuries, CP, amputations, etc.
  • Blind match racing, sailing – Blind Match Sailing is regulated by the International Federation for Disabled Sailing. Races are between two teams of three visually impaired competitors. Sailors are classified as B1, B2, and B3, with a team having no more than five points on the boat at a time. Teams have a sighted observer on board. Courses and boats are equipped with acoustic and sonar instruments that aid crew members in navigation.
  • 3-on-3, wheelchair basketball – Teams of five players, play 3 vs. 3 in a ten minute game.  If tied, the game will go into overtime with the first team scoring two points winning. Free-throws and shots inside the arc are worth 1 point. Shots outside the arc are worth 2 points. 3-on-3 wheelchair basketball is regulated by the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation.

The IPC Governing Board, who are already in Sochi for the Winter Games, will meet on March 5, 2014 to see which of the following sports and disciplines meet the minimum requirements for the 2020 games. Those selected sports, and sports already in existence, will complete a questionnaire by July of this year. The Board will then meet again and decide by October of 2014 which sports will make the cut for the 2020 games.

It is an exciting time in the world of adaptive sport, and it is amazing to see the continued growth of each sport. Best of luck to each organization! Go Team USA!

Author: Megan Mindel

  • bobl07

    Thank you Megan for this post! I am always excited to hear that a new sport could be added to the Paralympics! It just makes me think that more opportunities for people with disabilities provides more health benefits for the participant.

  • Megan

    Any time Bob! I’m excited to see what sports get selected for 2020!