Paralympic Track and Field

Learn about this Summer Paralympic sport

April 27, 2012

Athletes compete in the Men's 1500m finals at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, China.

The first organized competition for athletes with disabilities began in 1952—a wheelchair race for wounded World War II veterans at an English hospital. Track and field has been vital since the first Paralympic Games in 1960. It is the largest sport in the Paralympics, with 170 medal events. The events are open to athletes of all disability groups. They compete in classes based on their abilities and impairments. Thanks to new technology, rule changes and dedicated athletes, the sport is evolving to include an even wider range of athletes.

Rules of the Game

Track events, usually held as heats, vary from 100-meter sprints to 10,000-meter long-distance runs and relay races. Field events consist of throwing (discus, javelin, shot put and club throw) and jumping events. Marathons are also held outside the stadium.

The International Paralympic Committee has rules about the assistive devices athletes can use. Wheelchairs—special lightweight versions are often used for this sport—are considered sports equipment. Prostheses are required for athletes with leg amputations in track events; they are optional in field events. Visually impaired athletes can use a sighted guide, while athletes with hearing impairments may use acoustic devices to indicate takeoff times. 


Click here to read about sitting volleyball at the Paralympic Games.

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