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banner Friday, 6 October, 2000, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Making sense of the categories
Wheelchair rugby athletes are all rated differently
Wheelchair rugby athletes are all rated differently
BBC Sport Online's guide to the different disability categories at the Paralympics.

Athletes competing at Sydney from 18-29 October will do so within six disability categories.

Amputee Includes athletes who have at least one major joint in a limb missing, i.e. elbow, wrist, knee, ankle. Depending on the sport, some amputees compete as wheelchair athletes.

Cerebral palsy A disorder of movement and posture due to damage to an area, or areas, of the brain that control and coordinate muscle tone, reflexes, posture and movement. Cerebral means brain-centred; palsy is a lack of muscle control.

Intellectual disability A person with an intellectual disability must have substantial limitation in present functioning characterised by intellectual functioning (the American Association of Mental Retardation defines this as an IQ of 70 or below), limitations in two or more of the following adaptive skill areas: communication, self-care, home living, social skills, community use, self-direction, health and safety, functional academics, leisure and work and have acquired their condition before age 18.

Les autres Les autres is French for 'the others'. It is a term used to describe athletes with a range of conditions which result in locomotive disorders - such as dwarfism - that don't fit into the traditional classification systems of the established disability groups.

Vision impaired Any condition which interferes with 'normal' vision. This incorporates the entire range of vision difficulties from correctable conditions through to total blindness.

Wheelchair Generally in order to be eligible to compete in this category an athlete must have at least a 10% loss of function of their lower limbs. Some of the more common conditions which may result in individuals being eligible include: traumatic paraplegia and quadriplegia, spina bifida, poliomyelitis, amputees, cerebral palsy and all non ambulant les autres athletes.


Within the six disability categories the athletes still need to be divided according to their differing level of impairment.

The classification systems differ from sport to sport, in accordance with the different skills required to perform the sport.

Archery is open to athletes with a physical disability. Classification is broken up into three classes: W1, spinal cord and cerebral palsy athletes with impairment in all four limbs. W2, wheelchair users with full arm function. Standing, Amputee, Les Autre and Cerebral Palsy standing athletes. Some athletes in the standing group will sit on a high stool for support but will still have their feet touching the ground.

Athletics is open to all disability groups and uses a functional classification system. A brief classification guide is as follows: prefixing F for field athletes or T for track athletes. F or T 11-13 are visually impaired, F or T 20 are learning difficulty, F or T 31-38 are cerebral palsy, F or T 41- 46 amputee and les autre, T 51- 54 wheelchair track athletes and F51- 58 wheelchair field athletes.

Basketball is open to wheelchair athletes and athletes with a learning disability. Wheelchair athletes are classified according to their physical ability and are given a points rating between 1 - 4.5. One pointers being the most severely disabled and 4.5 the least disabled. A team on court comprises five players and may not exceed a total of 14 points at any given time.

Boccia is open to athletes with cerebral palsy who compete from a wheelchair. Classification is split into two group; in class 1 those athletes who are dependent on an electric wheelchair or assistance for mobility, and in class 2 those with poor functional strength in all extremities and trunk but able to propel a wheelchair.

Cycling is open to amputee, les autre, cerebral palsy and visually impaired athletes who compete in individual road race and track events. Classification is split into divisions 2, 3 and 4 for athletes with cerebral palsy, athletes in division two being the most severely handicapped progressing to division 4 which includes physically more able athletes. Visually impaired athletes compete together with no separate classification system. They ride in tandem with a sighted guide. Amputee, Spinal Cord Injury and Les Autre competitors compete within the classification groupings LC1 - essentially for riders with upper limb disabilities, LC2 - essentially for riders with disabilities in one leg but who are able to pedal normally, LC3 - essentially for riders with a handicap in one lower limb who will usually pedal with one leg only, and LC4 for riders with disabilities affecting both legs.

Equestrian is open to all disability groups, with riders divided into four grades. Grade 1 incorporates severely disabled riders with Cerebral Palsy, Les Autres and Spinal Cord Injury. Grade 2 incorporates Cerebral Palsy, Les Autres, Spinal Cord injury and Amputee riders with reasonable balance and abdominal control. Grade 3 incorporates Cerebral Palsy, Les Autres, Amputee, Spinal Cord Injury and totally blind athletes with good balance, leg movement and co-ordination. Grade 4 incorporates Cerebral Palsy, Les Autres, Amputee, Spinal Cord injury and Visually Impaired. This last group comprises ambulant athletes with either impaired vision or impaired arm/leg function.

Fencing is open to wheelchair athletes. There are only three classes; class A incorporates those athletes with good balance and recovery and full trunk movement; class B those with poor balance and recovery but full use of one or both upper limbs; class C athletes with severe physical impairment in all four limbs.

Football is open to athletes with cerebral palsy and includes classes 5, 6, 7 and 8. All classes comprise ambulant athletes; class 5 being the least physically able, progressing through to class 8 who are minimally affected. Teams must include at least one athlete from either class 5 or 6.

Goalball is open to visually impaired athletes who must wear "black out" masks to ensure all participants can compete equally, therefore eliminating the need for classification.

Judo is open to visually impaired athletes. There is no classification as such, participants being divided into weight categories in the same way as able-bodied judo athletes.

Powerlifting is open to athletes with a physical disability. Classification is by weight category as in able bodied powerlifting competition.

Sailing is open to amputee, cerebral palsy, visually impaired, wheelchair and les autre athletes. Classification for the Sonar is based on a functional points system with low points for severely disabled athletes rising by scale to high points for less disabled athletes. Each crew of three is allowed a maximum of 12 points between them. The singled handed 2.4m can be crewed regardless of points but the sailor must have at least a minimum level of disability which prevents them from competing on equal terms with able bodied sailors.

Shooting is open to athletes with a physical disability. There are only two classes of competition, wheelchair and standing.

Classification is divided into three groups: S1 to S10 are those with physical impairment. S1 will have the most severe impairment and an S10 a lesser impairment, for example a hand amputation. S11 to S13 are those with a visual impairment. S11 will have little or no vision, S12 can recognise the shape of a hand and have some ability to see, S13 greater vision than the other two classes but less than 20 degrees of vision. S14 is for learning difficulty athletes.

Table Tennis
Table tennis is open to athletes with a physical or learning difficulty spread over 11 classes. Classes 1 to 5 encompass athletes competing from a wheelchair with class 1 being the most severely disabled and class 5 the least disabled. Classes 6 to 10 comprise ambulant athletes with class 6 the most severely disabled and class 10 the least. Class 11 is for learning difficulty athletes.

Tennis is open to athletes with a mobility related disability which means that they cannot compete on equal terms with able bodied tennis players. The game is played from a wheelchair, with two classes, wheelchair and quadriplegic (disability in all four limbs).

Volleyball is open to athletes with a physical disability and has both a sitting and standing event. In sitting volleyball the court is smaller than standard and has a lower net. Standing volleyball uses a full sized court and normal height net. In the sitting games the only classification is the minimal disability ruling; athletes may compete if they have a disability that prevents them from competing on equal terms with able bodied athletes.

Wheelchair rugby
Athletes are classified on a points system similar to wheelchair basketball, with the most severely disabled athlete being graded 0.5 points rising to 3.5 points for the physically more able. Each team is comprised of four players and is allowed a maximum of 8 points on court at any one time.

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