Para-canoe and paratriathalon will both debut as Paralympic sports in Rio. If you’re looking for a crowd-pleaser, fan favorites include wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby (formerly known as murderball), track and field and swimming.
Athlete to watch
U.S. swimmer Jessica Long plans to compete in her fourth Paralympics and add to her running total of 17 Paralympic medals. (For reference, Michael Phelps has 22 Olympic medals.)
History of the Paralympics
The Paralympic Games are an elite sporting event for world-class athletes with different physical abilities, played in the same venues as the Olympics.
The Paralympics began when Dr. Sir Ludwig Guttmann organized the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948 for injured service personnel who had returned to England after WWII. In 1960, the first Paralympic Games were held in Rome with 400 athletes. This year will be the first Paralympics in South America, and 4,350 athletes from 176 countries will compete in 528 medal events.
“Para” is Greek for “beside,” and according to the official website of the Paralympic Movement, it points to the fact that the Paralympics is parallel to the Olympics. “Those people don’t want to be an inspiration to you,” Teresa Douglas says of Paralympians. “They’re athletes first. Their disability comes second.”
In contrast, the Special Olympics are an inclusive, participation-based program for those with different intellectual abilities.