Paralympic Sports A-Z: Athletics

Athletics was one of the original Paralympic sports, having been part of the Games since 1960, and has grown to become the most popular sport attracting the largest crowds. The sport offers a range of competitions and events, and is open to male and female athletes in all impairment groups.

It is governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and co-ordinated by the IPC Athletics Sports Technical Committee.

Disciplines and events

The events on the Paralympic programme include:

Track events: sprint (100m, 200m, 400m); middle distance (800m, 1,500m); long distance (5,000m, 10,000m) and relay races (4x100m, 4x400m)

In the relay events, each competitor completes an equal a portion of the total distance. Each athlete passes a baton to the next, except in wheelchair events, where touching the teammate's body with the hand is enough.

Road event: marathon

Field events: high jump, long jump, triple jump, discus, shot put, javelin, club throw

Depending on the class, athletes competing in the throwing events may throw from a standing position or seated, except for club throw, where athletes compete seated in wheelchairs or on platforms.

The aim in each event is simple — outperform your opponent.

There will be 177 total medal events in athletics at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.


Athletes compete according to their functional classification in each event. Some compete in wheelchairs and some with prostheses, while those who are visually impaired can receive guidance from a sighted guide.

Athletes who are eligible to compete in Para athletics are allocated to a sport class, with each class consisting of athletes who have impairments that cause approximately the same amount of activity limitation in the disciplines – running, wheelchair racing, jumps and throws.

Dedicated information on Para athletics classification will be published later on the IPC website in this Sport Week feature series.


In addition to the Paralympic Games, World, Asian and European Championships are held every two years. A series of Grand Prix events are also held to give athlete competition year around.

A complete list of Para athletics competitions can be found on the IPC Athletics website.

Sports equipment

Many athletics events require specific sports equipment for example, the discus, shot or javelin. In addition, athletes may use certain assistive devices as specified in the IPC Athletics rules.

Wheelchairs are considered to be sports equipment in track and field events. Athletics wheelchairs tend to be very lightweight. The dimensions and features of wheelchairs are clearly specified in the IPC Athletics rules.

Prosthetic devices may be used by amputees. These have been specifically developed to withstand the demands of sports competition. IPC rules require the use of leg prostheses in track events; however, the use of prostheses in field events is optional.

Rope tethers or other devices may be used by runners with a visual impairment to link with their sighted guides. Acoustic devices (or a sighted "caller") may be used to indicate take-off in jumping events, throwing target areas, etc.