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Guides: Disability

Last Updated: Monday September 20 2004 15:02 GMT


Britain's wheelchair athlete Tanni Grey-Thompson displays her four gold medals as she arrived home from the Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia

The Paralympics are Olympic style games for people with impairments.

In the word Paralympics, para stands for parallel, meaning equal to, not paraplegic as thought by many people.

Since 1988 they have taken place during the same year and in the same venue as the Olympics.

The 12th Paralympic Games were held in Athens from September 17 to 28, 2004.


Around 4,000 athletes from 143 nations travelled to Greece to represent their countries in 19 Paralympic sports. They were:

Archery, athletics, boccia (like bowls), cycling, equestrian (horse-riding) five-a-side football, seven-a-side football, goalball, judo, powerlifting, sailing, shooting, swimming, table tennis, volleyball, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair fencing, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair tennis.

Team GB competed in 15 sports in Athens, only missing out on goalball, volleyball and football.

Click on the link to the left to get the low down on the British Paralympic squad and to find out more about the Games.

11-year-old Chinese swimmer Qing Qing Xu was the youngest competitor in the 2004 Paralympic Games, while 66-year-old Canadian sailor David Williams was the eldest.


Obviously not all disabled people are the same so having them all compete in the same events wouldn't be fair.

So the organisers split the athletes into six separate categories, although some of them do differ slightly from sport to sport:

  • Amputee e.g. athletes without an elbow, wrist, knee or ankle.
  • Cerebral palsy which affects movement and posture.
  • Intellectual disability e.g. athletes with a limited ability to communicate.
  • Wheelchair.
  • Vision impaired. This includes athletes who are partially sighted and totally blind.
  • Les Autres. This French term for the others is used to describe athletes with a range of conditions not covered by the other five categories.

Within these six categories athletes are then grouped according to their level of disability.

Winter Games

The Winter Games involve Alpine ski-ing, ice sledge hockey, Nordic ski-ing and wheelchair curling.

The ninth Paralympic Winter Games in 2006 will be held in the Italian city of Torino.

Next Paralympics

The 13th (summer) Paralympics in 2008 will be held in Beijing, China.

Guide to Disability

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