7 Paralympic facts that may surprise you

Some interesting facts about the sporting event you've been bingeing on!

The 2020 Paralympics (or as we like to call it, Tokyo 2020’s main event!) has finally arrived on our TV screens. So, if you need us over the next 12 days, we’ll be glued to the couch in our Oodies, cheering on the 179 outstanding athletes wearing the green and gold.

To help you get as pumped for the action as we are, we’ve done some digging about to find 7 facts about the Paralympics you may be surprised to learn. Starting with…

1. The Paralympics started at a UK hospital

The Paralympic Games as we know them today started out quite differently!

They were founded by Sir Ludwig Guttmann, a Jewish doctor who fled from Germany to England during WWII. After opening a spinal injuries centre at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, Dr Guttman discovered that sporting activities were super handy for speeding up the recovery of returning war vets.

And what started out as a friendly competition on the hospital grounds, grew and grew to become the very first Paralympic Games in Rome, Italy, in 1960. The games featured 400 athletes from 23 different countries. It’s got a tad bigger since then!

2. Women are evening up the score

We’ll see more female Paralympic competitors go for gold at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics that ever before!

According to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), this year 1782 (40.5% overall) of the athletes competing will be women. Compare that with the Sydney 2000 Olympics, where only 990 (around 25%) were female. Let’s go for 50% and beyond in Paris 2024 ladies!

IPC President Andrew Parsons says, “We are constantly striving with our members to increase female participation at all levels of the Paralympic Movement, from athletes to administrators, from coaches to Board members.”

3. The medals are accessible, too!

Accessibility for the athletes and spectators played a huge part in the design of Tokyo Olympic Stadium in the lead-up to the event (sad that the spectators won’t get to enjoy it, though). We love that even the medals are accessible.

To help athletes with vision loss tell if they’re holding a gold, silver, or a bronze medal, they can feel for indentations on the medal’s side.

One indentation meals gold (woo hoo!), two is silver, and three means they’ve scored bronze. “Tokyo 2020” is also written in Braille on the face of the medal. We’re sure to be bringing home a handful of these beauties this year!


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Embedded content description: A Instagram post from @ausparalympics of athlete Ben Popham holding a gold medal.

4. Wheelchair rugby was once called ‘Murderball’

Can you imagine representing your country in the sport of ‘Murderball?’ Well, that was the original name given to Wheelchair Rugby when it was created in the ‘70s. And if you’ve ever watched the game, you can guess why.

The brutal sport, played by mixed teams on an indoor basketball court, is an aggressive, fast-paced thrill-ride. It’s quite common to see players crash into each other at full speed and get hurled onto the court!

Wheelchair Rugby, as it’s now known, became a Paralympic sport in 2000, and has been a huge crowd pleaser ever since.

This year, the Wheelchair Rugby competition will run from August 25 to 29, with our very own Australian Steelers going for their third consecutive gold medal. Go get ‘em Steelers!

5. Our Para-Canoe team have an extra special ride

It’ll be easy to spot our Para-Canoeists at this year’s games – their boats feature the stunning artwork of Indigenous artist Rheanna Lotter!

The artwork titled ‘The Journey’ was designed specifically for the uniforms of the Australian Paralympic Team and represents the diversity of our athletes and their connection with each other.

After the Para-Canoe team saw how striking it was, they put in a request to add it to their boats, too. And it was accepted!

“In the Paralympic squad we don’t have many Indigenous athletes. So, to incorporate some part of Australian culture in our squad is really cool,” says Paralympic gold medallist Curtis McGrath. “To be called ‘The Journey’, is really special because it has been quite a journey for everyone over the last 18 months.”

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Embedded content description: A Instagram post from @ausparalympics of the para-canoe design.

6. Classification plays a key role

While the Olympics group athletes by things like gender or weight, the Paralympics uses a complex (some might say confusing!) classification system, in which athletes with similar impairments compete against each other. And since different sports require different abilities, each sport has its very own classification system.

The IPC says the classification system is used to “minimise the impact of impairments on sport performance and to ensure the success of an athlete is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus.” For more info on classification, visit www.paralympic.org/athletics/classification

7. Dartchery was a thing…

From the very first games in Rome in 1960, the sport of ‘Dartchery’ was included in the Paralympic program. Yep, Dartchery is exactly what it sounds like: a combo between darts and archery (we’d recommend not giving this one a try at the local pub!).

In the sport, athletes used bows and arrows to hit a dart-board target from 18 meters away. Similar to darts, the players started with an initial score and reduced their points with each shot. The first player to reach zero was the winner.

Sadly, the sport had a short shelf life and was retired after the 1980 Paralympics.

So now you’ve learnt some cool facts, time to get stuck into the action over at 7plus.com.au/paralympics