The spectacular summer of sport is over for another four years, and what a summer it was! Our Halfords athletes did us proud, with a total of 8 medals (7 golds and 1 silver) over both the Olympics and Paralympics. Dame Sarah Storey racked up 3 gold medals over her four events in the Paralympics for a staggering total of 14 golds over her career.
Sarah and all of the other Paralympians wowed us so much that we thought we’d take a look back at the history of the Paralympics…
In 1948, a neurologist working with injured veterans at Stoke Mandeville Hospital became a pioneer in his field. The doctor, Sir Ludwig Guttman, believed that encouraging his patients to become involved in sport would help them to improve, both physically and mentally.
That year saw the Summer Olympic Games being held in London. It also saw the very beginnings of the Paralympics, with Guttmann organising the first Stoke Mandeville Games to take place on the same day as the Olympics got underway. These games saw 16 injured servicemen and women compete in archery.
Four years later the games began again, this time with Dutch ex-servicemen competing against the Brits. Over the next ten years, more and more spinal injury units joined, and in 1960 the first official Parallel Olympics began. These were held in Rome and were no longer open to just war veterans; 400 athletes from 23 countries took part in these games.
Initially, the Paralympics were only open to athletes in wheelchairs, but in 1976 sportsmen and women with different disabilities were able to compete. This inclusion meant that the number of competitors exploded to 1,600 from 40 different countries.
The 1988 games in Seoul, South Korea, saw the Paralympics finally staged on the same scale as the Olympics, making them truly ‘parallel’.
To ensure that athletes compete against others with similar levels of disability, the International Paralympic Committee has created 10 categories used to divide athletes. These categories are then sub-divided into classifications according to severity of the disability.
The 2016 Paralympics in Rio saw over 2 million tickets sold, making them the second-most successful games ever. 22 sports were involved, with canoeing and triathlon making their first Paralympics appearance.
The next summer Paralympics will take place in 2020 in Tokyo, and another two sports will be added; badminton and taekwondo. If this year’s games were anything to go by, we can’t wait!