Every Paralympic sport has its own classification rules, designed to make sure that athletes and teams

compete on equal terms. The rules are used to decide who is eligible to take part, and to group competitors in classes according to how much their impairment impacts on their performance. The international body for each sport appoints officials – classifiers – to undertake the mammoth job of assessing each participant, something that takes place both before and during competition. In some Paralympic sports, classification is relatively straightforward. For example in judo and powerlifting, competitors are divided only by weight. In goalball, the visually impaired and blind athletes wear blackout masks to ensure equality. In shooting, competitors are divided into mobility-dependent sub-categories within the main wheelchair and standing groups, while in sitting volleyball, a sixperson team can only have one player classed as Minimally Disabled (MD) on the court at a time - the rest must be classed Disabled. Other sports require a little more explanation, but all have a logical system and classification should not stand in the way of even a novice spectator’s enjoyment. Here is your indispensable guide to classification at the London Paralympic Games.

How the numbers are classified
KEY How the impact of an athletes impairment affects how he or she competes in that event is graded in this way Greater impact of an impairment

Swimmers are classified according to how their impairment affects their ability to perform each stroke.

Cyclists are classified by the lower the athlete’s class number, the greater the impact of their impairment on their ability to compete. Also affects which type of cycle you compete on.

Lesser impact of an impairment

All disability groups can compete in athletics but a system of letters and numbers is used to distinguish between them. A letter F is for field athletes, T represents those who compete on the track, and the number shown refers to their disability.

Athletes with physical impairments Class 1 swimmers’ impairment has the greatest impact on their ability to perform strokes; class 10 swimmers’ impairment has the least impact.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Greater impact

Athletes with a visual impairment who compete on a tandem with a sighted pilot on the front





11 12 13

Greater impact (little or no sight)

Athletes with a visual impairment Athletes with an intellectual impairment

Lesser impact (limited sight)

Breaststroke uses greater leg propulsion than any other stroke, therefore athletes with a physical impairment often have a different class for this event compared to Freestyle, Backstroke and Butterfly.

H1-H4 T1-T2

1 2 3 4

Athletes with an impairment that affects their legs and so compete using a handcycle

Greater impact

Lesser impact

Lesser impact

1 2

Athletes with cerebral palsy With classes 31 to 34 using a wheelchair to compete in track events or throw from a seated position in field events. 35 to 38 compete without a wheelchair

20 31-38

20 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38

11-13 14

Athletes with an impairment that affects their balance and so compete using a tricycle

Athletes with a visual impairment Class 11 swimmers have little or no sight; class 13 swimmers have limited sight Athletes with an intellectual impairment


1 2 3 4 5

Athletes with an impairment that affects their legs, arms and/or trunk but compete using a standard bicycle often with modifications

Archery Split into three classes; ARW1
for impairment in all four limbs, ARW2 for wheelchair users with full arm function and ARST for those with some disability in their legs including amputees, les autres and cerbral palsy athletes.

movement in arms only.

Sailing A multi-disability sport, sailing is
divided into three classes; the Sonar (mixed three-person crew), the SKUD18 (two-person) and the 2.4mR (single). Competitors are ranked on a points system with high points for the less disabled. Each crew is allowed a maximum of 12 points between them.

Athletes with an impairment that affects their arms or legs, including amputees


40 41 42 43 44 45 46

40 Dwarf class achondroplasia or similar

Boccia This bowling game, competed
from a wheelchair, is split into four classes, with BC1 athletes requiring the help of an assistant and BC2 athletes able to propel the wheelchair without assistance. BC3 classification is for those with very severe physical disability, requiring an assistive device and personal assistant, while BC4 is for other severe physical disabilities without assistance.

Jerome Singleton classified in the:

Table Tennis Classes 1-5 are for athletes
competing from a wheelchair, 1 being the most severe, while classes 6-10 are for ambulant competitors, with 6 being the most severely disabled. Class 11 is for those with an intellectual disability.



46 Single arm, above or below elbow amputation
Greater impact

Equestrian Split into four grades from 1
for severely disabled to 4 for those able to walk independently regardless of impaired vision, arm or leg function.

Wheelchair Basketball and Rugby
Rated on physical ability, competitors are determined between 1 and 4.5 (3.5 in rugby), with 1 the most disabled and 4.5 the least. A team’s players cannot surpass a given combined points tally.

Cover wheelchair racers or field athletes who throw from a seated position


51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58

Football Five-a-side is available to
visually impaired athletes, with B1 for the blind and B2 and B3 for the visually impaired or partially sighted. Seven-a-side is played by those with cerebral palsy and split into four categories according to limb control and co-ordination, with C5 for those least physically able up to C8.

Wheelchair Fencing Athletes are split
into two classes: A for those with good balance and recovery, and full trunk movement, with B for those with poor balance and recovery, but full use of one or both upper limbs.

Rowing Divided into four boat classes;
LTA4+ for impairment but movement in legs, trunk and arms, TA2x for athletes with trunk and arm movement only, AM1x for men with full movement in arms only and AW1x covers women who have full

Wheelchair Tennis Played from a
wheelchair, tennis is split into two classes – open class for those with an impairment in one or both legs without affecting the arms or hands, and quad for those with impairment in both arms and legs.

Lesser impact