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Opinion: The most prestigious Paralympic sporting events outside the Paralympic Games

clip art of football Image credit: flomar. License. Public domain

If you were asked, “Are there any Paralympic sports in which the Paralympics is not the biggest or most prestigious event?” how would you answer?  For me, this really depends on how you define Paralympic sport.  Both the IOC and IPC recognize sports that do not appear on the Paralympic program.  Classic example for the Olympics include softball, baseball and netball.


For the IPC, wheelchair dance is officially governed by the IPC.  It is unlikely to appear on the Paralympic program despite this because there are some perception issues related to having a completely able-bodied competitor competing as an equal alongside a person with a disability.  It was not until very recently that guide athletes in sports like athletics, cycling and skiing actually got a gold medal along with the athlete they were assisting. In wheechair dance, there are different classes so you do have two wheelchair dancers competing as partners. In this case, the major event is the  IPC WDS World Championships.  The event is being held this year in November in Rome, Italy.  Top ranked competitors come from Russia, Hong Kong, Ukraine, Germany, Belarus, and Austria.

The IPC also has several international sport federations as members, where the sports are not on the program.  This is different than direct governance like they have with wheelchair dance.   Ignoring for now sports going off the program and sports coming on the program and specific disciplines inside specific sports,  sports outside the Paralympic program but recognized by the IPC include Bobsleigh, Skeleton, Handball, Powerchair Football, Frisbee sport, Modern Pentathlon, Arm Wrestling, Squash, Karate, and I believe RaceRunning.

Bobsleigh and Skeleton are both currently in the building up phase for a potential Paralympic Games bid.  I believe this past season they had their first season.  There are a few articles at Page on and Skeleton | ParaSport News about these sports.  Absent the Paralympic Program, this is the most important event as it really is their only event..

Handball is also still very much in development.  I believe there are currently two forms, ID Handball and wheelchair handball.  If there is a blind version, I am not aware of it.  (There is a deaf version, but this is on the Deaflympics program.  Deaf sport is not part of the Paralympic program.)  The ID side is just starting up with regional competitions, with the three teams competing in the inaugural European championship.  Thus, there really is not anything comparable yet.  ID handball | ParaSport News has some details.  I have no idea about what is going on the wheelchair side.   I know there are a few thousand players around the world, in places like the USA, Brazil, England and Australia. There is a world championship.

Wheelchair frisbee is governed by the same organization as the able-bodied sport, and they have been working on improving integration for some time.  I believe IWAS has also been looking at trying to work the sport into some of their sport programming.  They have generally been good at supporting both Paralympic and non-Paralympic sports.  I do not believe there is a World Cup type circuit or a World Championships.  I have no idea what the major event would be.  They would likely have to develop one, especially if they ever want serious consideration for Paralympic inclusion.

Powerchair football has both regional and major international championships.  They have their World Championship, which is arguably their biggest event.  They have been holding it regularly since I believe 2007. (They actually could be ready to make a strong case for Paralympic inclusion in 2024, along with cerebral palsy football.  There is just the potential issue of bias against the sport because it uses motorized wheelchairs.  Still, there is a desire by some to increase the number of participants who have less functionality.)  The next World Cup for them is later this year in Brazil.

Powerchair football is really awesome.  The video above is about the Australian squad after they competed in the World Cup in 2011 in France.

Modern Pentathlon I believe was only recognized this year or last year. Modern pentathlon.  I am unsure what their major event is, as I understand the sport is still a bit in the development stage.

Arm Wrestling often appears on IWAS programs. I do not believe it is consistent though.  Sometimes the sport I believe also is on regional Paralympic Games like Para ASEAN Games. This one would be an answer that I think would realistically change from year to year, depending on the schedule.

Squash is mostly I believe a wheelchair sport. Squash | ParaSport News.  I think it is similar to Arm Wrestling. I believe it has been a demonstration sport at the squash world championships.   I think there are some national championships, but no world championships.  Again, nothing particularly prestigious.

Karate is governed by the World Karate Federation.  Like Taekwondo, they appear to be headed to towards a serious bid for Paralympic inclusion and had their first world championships recently at a 2014 Bremen event.

RaceRunning is … a hybrid sport.   The image below is from cpisra. It is for people with cerebral palsy. It looks like cycling but falls under athletics.  It is not governed by IPC Athletics. It is governed by the CPISRA which I believe is IPC recognized, which is why I am not 100% certain on this one.  They do have a World Championship, though I am unsure how frequently it is held.  They also have national and I believe regional championships.  I would guess the World Championships would be the equivalent.

So these sports are all Paralympic sports that are not on the program.  That is what is probably the highest prestige event absent that.

Getting to the sports that are on the Paralympic program, my assumption is that the Paralympic games are the most pregious event full stop.  For all of them.

The possible exception here MIGHT be in wheelchair tennis.   Wimbledon, the US Open, the French Open, the Australian Open and the British Open are all highly prestigious.  Take away   Wimbledon and add the Japan Open, and you might be able to make a case that the Super Series is as prestigious or more prestigious than the Paralympics inside the broader tennis community.  They certainly get the media coverage outside the event to warrant this being the case.

And yeah, outside wheelchair tennis, I do not think I can say the same about any sport on the Paralympic program.


This was originally published on Quora at Laura Hale’s answer to Are there any Paralympic sports in which the Paralympics is not the biggest or most prestigious event?.

Laura Hale
About Laura Hale (2569 Articles)
Laura Hale is a sport journalist, specializing in Paralympic and disability sport news. Prior to helping found ParaSport-News, she spent two and a half years working as a journalist on Wikinews, a citizen journalism site. As a journalist, she has covered the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London, the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in La Molina, the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, and a number of other sporting events. She has additional experience with Paralympic sport having worked as a Wikipedian in Residence for the Australian and Spanish Paralympic Committees. She has a PhD in Communications from the University of Canberra.

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