To ensure competition is fair and equal, all Paralympic sports have a system in place which ensures that winning is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus, the same factors that account for success in sport for able-bodied athletes. This process is called ‘classification’ and its purpose is to minimise the impact of impairments on the activity (‘sport discipline’). Having the impairment thus is not sufficient; the impact on the sport must be proved, and each in Paralympic sport, the criteria of grouping athletes by the degree of activity limitation resulting from the impairment are named ‘sport classes’.

Through classification, it is determined which athletes are eligible to compete in a sport and how athletes are grouped together for competition. This, to a certain extent, is similar to grouping athletes by age, gender or weight.

Classification is sport-specific because an impairment affects the ability to perform in different sports to a different extent. As a consequence, an athlete may meet the criteria in one sport, but may not meet the criteria in another sport.


Powerlifting is open to athletes with one or multiple of the eight eligible physical impairments, if these impairments have a certain severity that impacts on sport performance.

All athletes have an impairment in their lower limbs or hips, which would prohibit them to compete in able-bodied weightlifting. For example, athletes with a single or double amputation through or above the ankle or stiffness of the knee joint would be eligible to compete.

All eligible athletes compete in one ‘sport class’, but divided by gender and in different weight categories.


Impaired Muscle Power Reduced force generated by muscles or muscle groups, such as muscles of one limb or the lower half of the body, as caused, for example, by spinal cord injuries, spina bifida or polio.
Impaired Passive Range of Movement Range of movement in one or more joints is reduced permanently, for example due to arthrogryposis. Hypermobility of joints, joint instability, and acute conditions, such as arthritis, are not considered eligible impairments.
Limb Deficiency Total or partial absence of bones or joints as a consequence of trauma, illness or congenital limb deficiency.
Leg Length Difference Bone shortening in one leg due to congenital deficiency or trauma.
Short Stature Reduced standing height due to abnormal dimensions of bones of upper and lower limbs or trunk, for example due to achondroplasia or growth hormone dysfunction.
Hypertonia Abnormal increase in muscle tension and a reduced ability of a muscle to stretch, due to a neurological condition, such as cerebral palsy, brain injury or multiple sclerosis.
Ataxia Lack of co-ordination of muscle movements due to a neurological condition, such as cerebral palsy, brain injury or multiple sclerosis.
Athetosis Generally characterised by unbalanced, involuntary movements and a difficulty in maintaining a symmetrical posture, due to a neurological condition, such as cerebral palsy, brain injury or multiple sclerosis.


For the specific minimum disability criteria of each impairment type for Para powerlifting, please consult the Classification Rules and Regulations.


Classification Rules and Regulations
Classification Forms and Documents