The USA team celebrate winning gold in the Mens 4 x 100m T42-47 relay at the IPC World ParaAthletics Championships 2017 on July 23, 2017 in London.
Paralympic Track and Field (or Para Athletics) first debuted in the 1960 Games and is the biggest sport within the Paralympic movement in terms of participating athletes and countries. In 2016, more than nearly 1,150 athletes from 147 National Paralympic Committees competed from all five continents.
With just one year until the Tokyo Paralympic Games, check out the top five things you need to know!
1. Types & Events
Para Track and Field debuted in the very first Paralympic Games in 1960 and has been contested in every Paralympic Games since.
Events offer a wide array of competition opportunities - track events, throws, jumps and marathon events. The 2020 Games will see the introduction of a new mixed gender, mixed class 4x100m relay. This event will feature two teams of two male and two female Para athletes, each from a different class! This one-of-a-kind event is sure to be a popular in next year’s games.
The aim of classification in Para athletics is to minimize the impact of impairments on the outcome of competition, to even the playing field. Para Track and Field has four different categories of classifications.
Running & Jumping
This category has 20 different classes of competition.
T11-13: Vision Impairment
T20: Intellectual impairment
T35-38: Coordination impairments
T40-41: Short stature
T42-44: Lower limb impairments competing without prosthesis
T45-47: Upper limb impairments
T61-64: Lower limbs competing with prosthesis
Example: Track star and double-amputee Hunter Woodhall competes in class T62 - and
has earned two Paralympic medals in the class.
There are seven different classes in wheelchair racing on the track.
T32-34: Coordination impairments
T51-54: Limb deficiency
Often called field events, these events are categorized into 19 different classes.
F11-13: Vision impairment
F20: Intellectual impairment
F35-38: Coordination impairments
F40-41: Short stature
F42-44: Lower limb impairment competing without prosthesis
F45-46: Upper limb impairments
F61-64: Lower limb competing with prosthesis
Example: Paralympic gold medalist David Blair earned his gold medal in class F44
There are 11 classes of seat throws competitions!
F31-34: Coordination impairments
F51-57: Limb deficiency
Example: Two-time Paralympian Cassie Mitchell is paralyzed from the chest down with significant impairments to her arms as well. That hasn’t stopped her from competing in two Paralympic Games and bringing home two medals in the F51 classification.
You can find more information about classifications and events here.
Due to the postponement of the Games and the COVID-19 pandemic, team trials were rescheduled. U.S. Paralympic Team Trials will now be held in Minneapolis on June 17-20, 2021.
4. The Team
Team USA has topped the Para Track and Field podium at nine separate Paralympic Games - more than any other country! At the 2016 Games, the U.S. finished second in total medals with 42. They will return to Tokyo with a vengeance, eyes set on the top of that podium. Members of Team USA traveled to Lima, Peru for the Parapan American Games in 2019, where they performed in a dominating fashion.
5. Things To Watch For
17-time Paralympic medalist Tatyana McFadden is on the hunt to qualify for her sixth Paralympic Games. She currently holds the record for most track and field gold medals by an American woman, both Olympic and Paralympic. If she adds four medals to her tally in Tokyo, she will surpass Bart Dodson who is the all-time individual medal leader for Team USA in Paralympic Track and Field garnishing 20 Paralympic medals in his tenure.