Para sport is sport within the Paralympic Movement for people with a disability. Athletes competing in Para sport have a health condition that presents as an impairment and leads to a competitive disadvantage in sport.

The purpose of Classification is to define who is eligible to compete in a Para sport and groups athletes with an eligible impairment into sports classes, according to how much their impairment affects their ability to carry out the fundamental activities in a specific sport. 

Classification is integral to Para sport as it provides a structure for fair and equitable competition within the Paralympic Movement. 

Classification ensures that the impact of impairment in each event is minimized and that the success of an athlete is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus.

All Para athletes wishing to compete in Para sport must have a sports specific class.

Classification is sport-specific because impairment affects the ability to perform in different sports to a different extent. As a consequence, a Para athlete may meet the criteria in one sport but may not meet the criteria in another sport.


A sport class is a category which groups athletes together for competition depending on how much their impairment impacts performance in their sport. Therefore, a sport class is not necessarily comprised of one impairment type alone but can be comprised of athletes with different impairments. However, these different impairments affect sport performance to a similar extent. For example, you will find athletes with paraplegia and double above-knee amputation competing in the same sport class in athletics because their different impairments have a comparable effect on their 1,500m wheelchair racing performance. 

In individual sports, athletes compete against athletes in their own sport class to ensure the impact of impairment is minimized. In national events and smaller international competitions athletes in different sport classes may compete together for one medal, because there are not enough athletes for each sport class to create a competitive event. In these cases, athletes in different sport classes may be given a ‘coefficient’ or correction score to account for the different levels of activity limitation. 

Some Para sports only have only one sport class, such as Para powerlifting. To compete in these sports, the athletes only need to meet the minimum impairment criteria. 

In team sports, the players are allocated points, which indicate their activity limitation. A lower score indicates a more severe activity limitation than a higher score. A team is not allowed to have more than a certain maximum sum of points on the field of play at the same time in order to ensure equal competition with the opposing team. 


Quick guide to Para sports and their impairment eligibility

Guide to classification

IPC Athlete classification Code and International Standards

NZ Para athlete Classification Code and Standards