Lisa Czechowski competes during the London International Goalball Tournament against Great Britain on Dec. 3, 2011 in London.
The Paralympic Movement has grown by leaps and bounds since the inaugural Paralympic Games in 1960, when roughly 400 athletes took part in Rome. That number has grown tenfold heading into the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, and also exponentially on the rise is the amount of television coverage of this year’s Games.
So the question becomes, if you’re not on board yet, what are you waiting for?
The first of a record 1,200 hours of coverage across all NBC platforms begins 7 a.m. EDT on Tuesday and continues for 13 days of action. With the Games now just hours away, here’s what you need to know and how to watch the biggest and best Paralympic Games yet.
Just How Big Are This Year’s Paralympic Games?
The Tokyo Games are expected to feature more than 4,500 athletes competing in 22 different sports. Team USA consists of 234 athletes, plus six sighted guides. That group includes 129 returning Paralympians, with four of them making their sixth appearance: Lisa Czechowski (goalball), Tahl Leibovitz (table tennis), Tatyana McFadden (track and field) and Asya Miller (goalball).
What’s New At This Year’s Games?
Two new sports join the Paralympic program this year, with badminton and taekwondo rounding out the list of 22. That’s the same number of sports as Rio, as sailing and soccer 7-a-side were dropped from the program. Badminton will have medal events in singles, doubles and mixed competitions with both standing and wheelchair classifications. Taekwondo competition takes place in three weight classes each for men and women.
Several sports have also seen new events and classifications added, including in paracanoe, which sees the introduction of va’a boats for the first time. These boats are longer than kayaks and feature an outrigger float on the side, reminiscent of the small fishing boats of Polynesia. The new events make for 539 total medal events, up from 528 in Rio.
What Makes The Paralympic Games Unique?
Apart from being the largest sporting event in the world for disabled athletes, the Paralympic Games showcase two sports that are not a part of the Olympic program that have evolved specifically for adaptive athletes. Boccia, a sort of cross between lawn bowling and curling, has been contested at the Paralympic Games since 1984. And goalball, a sport similar to handball but just for visually impaired athletes, has been on the Paralympic program since 1976. The goalball tournament begins Aug. 25 and boccia gets underway on Aug. 30.
How Can I Watch The Paralympic Games?
With Tokyo being 13 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time, most live Paralympic events will take place in the evening or early morning U.S. time. NBC will air the Opening Ceremony live on NBCSN, which will continue to air live events on each day of the Games. Live and tape delayed coverage will also be presented on The Olympic Channel.
Streaming coverage will be available through NBCOlympics.com and through the NBC Sports app. A full schedule of events is available here.
What Are Some Events And Athletes To Watch?
Few athletes have won as many Paralympic medals as U.S. swimmer Jessica Long, who has racked up 23 career medals in the S8/SB7/SM8 classification ever since making her Paralympic debut in 2004. After winning gold in the 400-meter freestyle in her first three Paralympic Games, Long will look to get back atop the medal stand in that event on Aug. 31.
Team USA’s undisputed queen of the track is Tatyana McFadden, a 17-time Paralympic medalist. McFadden has won nearly all there is to win at the Paralympic Games — including a medal in Nordic skiing at the 2014 Winter Games — with one notable exception. McFadden is still seeking her first Paralympic marathon gold medal despite winning many of the world’s Marathon Major races. McFadden will give it another shot on Sep. 5 in one of the final events of the Games.
Like McFadden has, competing in multiple sports at the Paralympic Games is not unheard of, and there will be several athletes trying something new in Tokyo. A two-time Paralympic gold medalist in Nordic skiing, Kendall Gretsch will compete with the U.S. paratriathlon team alongside Brad Snyder, a five-time Paralympic gold medalist in swimming. Gretsch’s PTWC race takes place Aug. 29 while Snyder’s PTVI race gets going a day earlier on Aug. 28.
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo-2020-Paralympic-Games to view the medal table and results.