If you got really into the Winter Olympics this year, and you’re missing the excitement, hopefully you can check out the final few days of the Paralympic Games.
The Paralympics are for athletes with disabilities.
These are sometimes confused with the Special Olympics -- but the Paralympics are different. And it’s not like everyone gets a medal just for showing up: These are super competitive events, just intended for athletes who live with a range of disabilities.
The Paralympics (just pronounced “pear-Olympics,” not “Para Olympics,” which you do hear sometimes), is the largest international event of its kind. It’s held shortly after each Olympic Games, in the same host city.
If you want to learn more, Rolling Stone magazine suggests checking out “Rising Phoenix” on Netflix, which features several athletes from the Summer Paralympic Games, who competed in Tokyo, including fencer Bebe Vio of Italy, sprinter Jonnie Peacock of Great Britain, and archer Matt Stutzman of Team USA.
Here are results, as well, if there are any winter sports you’re following in particular. OK, now onto those photos:
In the Olympics, sports are mostly grouped by sex or weight class. In the Paralympics, athletes compete against people who have about the same functional ability as they do. It’s all about levels of impairment, so that the events are fair. Classifications can refer to physical, vision and intellectual impairments.
Although we touched on this earlier, it’s worth reiterating: These sports are hard, and no one is given a pass to the Paralympics just because of a disability.
“Some misconceptions are, that with the Paralympics, we just sign up and go to the Games,” American triathlete Melissa Stockwell, an Iraq war veteran, told Reuters. “But we train just as hard as able-bodied athletes. We sacrifice just as much. ... The toll on our body is just as much or more when someone is dealing with a prosthetic limb or a spinal cord injury or are in a wheelchair. We work just as hard as Olympic athletes.”
As the International Paralympic Committee put it, on the group’s website, “Sport for athletes with an impairment has existed for more than 100 years, and the first sport clubs for the deaf were already in existence in 1888 in Berlin. (But) it was not until after World War II, however, that it was widely introduced. The purpose of it at that time was to assist the large number of war veterans and civilians who had been injured during wartime.”
The IPC, by the way, is the governing body for the Paralympics, kind of like how the International Olympic Committee oversees the Olympics. The Paralympic Games first took place in Rome in 1960. There were 400 athletes from 23 countries.
Last year was a historical time for these Games -- in 2021, for the first time, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said they would give Paralympians the same amount of money for winning medals as Olympians (which is $37,500 for gold). Read more about that here.