London 2012: What are Paralympic classifications?

  • 30 August 2012
Paralympic cyclist Jon-Allan Butterworth Image copyright PA

Classifications play a big part in the Paralympic Games, making sure athletes with the same abilities compete against each other.

There are three main classifications - athletes with a physical impairment, a visual impairment or an intellectual impairment.

Each athlete is given a classification number. It varies from sport to sport, but the lower the number, the more severe the impairment of the athletes in the event.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Brit David Weir competes in T54

For example in athletics the classifications are:

  • 11-13 for athletes with visual impairments
  • 20 for athletes with intellectual impairments
  • 31-38 for athletes with cerebral palsy
  • 40-46 for those with without a limb or limb impairment
  • 51-58 for wheelchair athletes
Image copyright PA
Image caption Swimmer Ellie Simmonds competes in S6

Whereas in swimming the classifications are:

  • 1-10 for swimmers with a physical impairment
  • 11-13 for swimmers with a visual impairment
  • 14 for swimmers with an intellectual impairment

And there's a letter that goes before it which just tells you which sport the class is for e.g. T is for Track events or SB for Swimming(Backstroke).

How is it decided?

An official assesses the athlete's abilities and they're assigned to a sport class.

Are there medals for each class?

There are often medals for different classes, but sometimes athletes from different classifications compete for the same medal, using a points system to balance things out.