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The Paralympic Games are a series of competitions for top athletes with disabilities that follow the summer and winter Olympic games. In 2021, the games ran from August 24 through September 5.
The word Paralympic derives from the Greek stem para, meaning alongside, and the word Olympic, which refers to the Olympic games; therefore, the Paralympics are equal in stature to the Olympics. The games host over 150 countries with thousands of competitors.
The Paralympics gives athletes with physical, visual, or intellectual impairments the opportunity to compete in sports just like their counterparts. Over 4,000 athletes compete each year in a variety of events, from boccia to sitting volleyball. To ensure all athletes face appropriate competition with equal opportunities to win, the Paralympics uses standards of classification. Groupings for athletes are determined by the degree of activity limitation due to impairments; people with similar functional abilities compete against each other in a given sport. In the sport of powerlifting, there is only one sports class. On the contrary, athletics (including track and field) have over 50 sport classes.
In 1948, during the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games, Dr. Ludwig Guttman organized a wheelchair sports competition for sixteen World War II veterans with spinal cord injuries. Thus, the Stoke Mandeville Games occurred, which later became the Paralympic Games. The purpose at that time was to assist the large number of war veterans and civilians who were injured during wartime. In 1960 in Rome, 400 athletes from 23 countries attended the first official summer Paralympic Games. The first winter Paralympic Games took place in 1976 Sweden. Since 1992, the Paralympics have taken place in the same cities and venues as the Olympics.
This year, China swept the Paralympic medal counts, taking the lead in total medals won. The country won over double the number of gold medals than its closest competitor, Great Britain, and finished strong with a grand total of 207 medals. Great Britain won 124 medals while the United States took home 37 gold and 104 total medals. The Russian Paralympic Committee was close behind with 36 gold medals and Ukraine finished in fifth, a surprising outcome for its small team of 139 athletes and a country ranked as one of the poorest European nations.
Not all Paralympic events are mirrors of the Olympics, but they share similar competitions like athletics, rowing, table tennis, and archery with the addition of wheelchair basketball, fencing, rugby, and tennis. Despite the games being over, you can watch highlights and replays on NBCOlympics.com or the NBC Sports app, which is also accessible on the streaming platform Peacock.
Sources: New York Times, paralympic.org, abc.net