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News posted on Monday 9th August, 2021

What does the ‘Para’ in Paralympics mean?

What does the para stand for in Paralympics

The word “Paralympic“ derives from the Greek preposition “para“ (beside or alongside) and the word “Olympic“.

Its meaning is that Paralympics are the parallel Games to the Olympics and illustrates how the two movements exist side-by-side.

Whilst the first Paralympic Games were held in 1960, it was not until the summer Paralympic Games in Seoul, Korea in 1988 and the Paralympic Winter Games in Albertville, France in 1992 that the Paralympic Games and Olympic Games truly ran side by side. It was at those Games where both the Olympic and Paralympic Games were held in the same city for the first time. Since then, all Olympic and Paralympic Games have been held in the same city every four years thanks to an agreement between the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

In order to uncover the history of the term “Paralympic“, we need to go back to the founding of the IPC back in September 1989. The IPC was founded as an international non-profit organisation in Dusseldorf, Germany, to act as the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement.

The history of the Paralympic Games

Whilst sport for athletes with impairments has existed for over 100 years, it was not until after World War II that the formation of the Paralympic Games took place.

Following the war, organised sports for athletes with impairments (called today Para athletes) were set up to assist a large number of war veterans and civilians who had been injured during the war.

You can read more about the history of the Paralympic Games in one of our previous posts but here is a brief summary.

Whilst the first Paralympic Games were held in Rome in 1960, the start of the Paralympic Movement dates back much earlier to 1944. Following World War Two, the British Government opened up a spinal injuries centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital which grew into a rehabilitation centre.

It was in Stoke Mandeville that recreational and then competitive sport evolved and in 1948, Sir Ludwig Guttmann organised the first competitive games for athletes with impairments. As chance would have it, the day of the first competitive games coincided with the Opening Ceremony of the 1948 London Olympic Games.

It was 12 years until the informal Games set up by Dr Guttmann were transformed and the first Paralympic Games were held in Rome in 1960 with 400 athletes from 23 countries.

Jump ahead 60 years to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games – the first Paralympics ever to be postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and we are counting down to the start of the Paralympics with Para athletes from all over the world, including New Zealand, preparing to head to Tokyo to compete.

What will the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games hold for Para athletes?

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will represent a very different experience for Para athletes attending the Paralympics.

The COVID-19 pandemic means that the Paralympic Village experience will be very different to past Paralympics. The pandemic means that teams will be kept separate at all times in the village and competitors will be restricted to contact with competitors in the same events only.

Whilst this will be a disappointment for some, the opportunity to compete in the Paralympic Games, for some Para athletes, for the first time, is too big an opportunity to miss out on and every precaution will be put in place to ensure the safety of all competitors at Tokyo 2020.

New Zealand will take a team of 29 Para athletes to Tokyo to compete across six different sporting disciplines including Para athletics, Para canoe, Para cycling, Para swimming, Shooting Para sport and Wheelchair rugby.

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It’s not really a question of whether they could. Para athletes have been competing against non-disabled Olympic rivals for over 100 years, long before the formation of the Paralympic Games in 1960.

As far back as 1904, American Gymnast George Eyser, who had a wooden leg, competed at the Olympic Games held in St Louis, Missouri. Not only did Eyser compete, he went home with six medals to his name: three gold, two silvers, and a bronze.

When we talk about Paralympic athletes competing against Olympic athletes, there are numerous examples of New Zealand athletes doing just this.

In 1984, New Zealander Neroli Fairhall became the first Para athlete in the world to compete in the Olympic Games, affording New Zealand the ability to create a small piece of history.

Neroli Fairhall – a Paralympic Hall of Fame inductee

Born in Christchurch in 1944, Neroli Fairhall took up Para archery following a motorbike accident which paralysed her from the waist down.

Paralympic legend Fairhall competed in Para athletics and Para archery at her first two Paralympic Games in Heidelberg 1972 and Arnhem 1980, but it was in Para archery that she excelled, taking gold in Arnhem in 1980.

Four years later, she became the first Para athlete to also compete at the Olympics (opens a new tab), finishing 35th in the archery competition at Los Angeles 1984. She also represented New Zealand at the Seoul 1988 and Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games.

Fairhall passed away in 2006 at the age of 61. She was posthumously inducted into the Paralympic Hall of Fame during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Neroli Fairhall at the opening ceremony of the 1894 Olympic Games

 

Paralympic athletes who have competed at the Olympic Games

Since Fairhall’s appearance at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games, a further 14 Para athletes have competed at both a Paralympic and Olympic Games in 2020.

Para athletes competed at an Olympic Games prior to acquiring their disability, however 6 athletes to compete in the Paralympic and Olympic Games in the same year.

Paralympian/Para athlete

Resides

Classification

Impairment (Disability)

Coach

Club

Para athletics

Paralympian #183 Holly Robinson

Dunedin

F46

Limb deficiency

Raylene Bates

Athletics Taieri

Caitlin Dore #192

Christchurch

F37

Cerebral palsy

Hayden Hall

Athletics Taieri

Anna Grimaldi MNZM #195

Dunedin

T47

Limb deficiency

Brent Ward

Hill City University Athletic Club

William Stedman #208

Christchurch

T36

Cerebral palsy

George Edwards

Port Hills Athletic Club

Lisa Adams

Rotorua

F37

Cerebral palsy

Dame Valerie Adams

Lake City Athletic Club

Danielle Aitchison

Hamilton

T36

Cerebral palsy

Alan McDonald

Hamilton City Hawks Athletics

Anna Steven

Auckland

T64

Amputee

Hamish Meacham

North Harbour Bay Athletics

Ben Tuimaseve

Auckland

F37

Cerebral palsy

Paralympian #31 John Eden

Owairaka Amateur Athletic and Harrier Club

Para canoe

Scott Martlew #198

Christchurch

KL2/VL3

Limb deficiency

Leigh Barker

Arawa Canoe Club

Corbin Hart

Auckland

KL3

Limb deficiency

Gavin Elmiger

North Shore Canoe Club

Para cycling

Stephen Hills #196

New Plymouth

Right side hemiplegia

Stu MacDonald

Hawera Cycling Club

Equestrian

Sarah Ellington

Auckland

C2

Spinal cord injury

Stu MacDonald

Counties Manukau Cycling

Eltje Malzbender

Cambridge

T1

Traumatic brain injury (hypertonia)

Michael Bland

Morrinsville Wheelers

Rory Mead

USA

H2

Spinal cord injury

Stu MacDonald

Wellington Masters Cycling Club

Nicole Murray

Otorohanga

C5

Limb deficiency

Stu MacDonald

Waikato

Anna Taylor

Cambridge

C4

Cauda equina (partial loss of power)

Damian Wiseman

Te Awamutu

Para swimming

Sophie Pascoe #166

Christchurch

S9, SB8, SM9

Single limb deficiency

Roly Crichton

QE11

Nikita Howarth #179

Te Awamutu

S7, SB7, SM7

Double limb deficiency

Mat Woofe

Hamilton Aquatic

Tupou Neiufi #201

Auckland

S8, SB8, SM8

Hypertonia

Sheldon Kemp

Pukekohe

Jesse Reynolds #205

Auckland

S9, SB8, SM9

Single limb deficiency

Simon Mayne

Fairfield

Shooting Para sport

Michael Johnson MNZM #148

Auckland

SH2C

Spinal cord injury

Freddy Krumm

ParaFed Auckland Shooting Club

Wheelchair rugby

Hayden Barton-Cootes

Auckland

3.0P

Spinal cord injury

Greg Mitchell

ParaFed Auckland Shooting Club

Cody Everson

Christchurch

1.0 P

Spinal cord injury

Greg Mitchell

Robert Hewitt

Hamilton

2.0 P

Spinal cord injury

Greg Mitchell

Barney Koneferenisi

Auckland

3.5

Amputee

Greg Mitchell

Tainafi Lefono

Christchurch

2.0 P

Spinal cord injury

Greg Mitchell

Gareth Lynch

Auckland

1.0 (1)

Spinal cord injury

Greg Mitchell

Gavin Rolton

Wellington

0.5 P

Spinal cord injury

Greg Mitchell

Mike Todd

Christchurch

2.0 P

Muscle degeneration

Greg Mitchell

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