Skip Navigation

Paralympic sports guide


Archers compete in two classes in the Paralympics, Open and W1. The sport is a growing phenomenon in Britain, and ParalympicsGB will have their largest number of representatives ever at a Games. Watch more about archery here:



Athletics is one of two sports alongside swimming which caters for people with all physical impairments. It's been on the Paralympic programme from the very start, and in 2012, it contributed 29 medals to GB's total.



Despite being one of the least known sports, it's the most inclusive as it welcomes people of most disabilities whilst men and women compete together. Both sides have six balls of different colour, and the aim is to get your ball as close to the white target ball (the jack) as possible.



Para-canoe will be making its debut this year at the Paralympics - there are two types of boats, the kayak and the va'as. There are only two teams with a full quota of six boats in Brazil, and ParalympicsGB is one of them.



Cycling on the track are on tandem bicycles or bicycles, whereas road cyclists are on handcycles, tricycles, tandem cycles or bicycles. The GB team won 22 medals in London, and they have youth and experience in their ranks.



GB have an unbeaten record at world and european level at equestrian, which is some feat. At the Paralympics, it solely consists of dressage and is divided into five grades.


Football 5-a-side

GB don't have a team in this, and these matches are played with balls that have bells inside when it moves to help the athletes track it. The four outfield players must all wear eyeshades to ensure a level playing field, as some are partially sighted.


Football 7-a-side

Played by athletes with cerebral palsy, or have got a brain injury. You can expect to see lots of tough tackling and memorable goals with quality on show from the eight teams, as some of GB's side used to be in academies of top British clubs.



This is for athletes with a visual impairment, and all players on the court must be completely blindfolded and the aim is to roll or throw the ball in the opposition's goal. Interestingly, the ball used is the size of a basketball, but twice the weight.



At the Paralympics, judo is only open to athletes with a visual impairments and individuals are categorised into weight divisions. Men's matches take place for five minutes, whilst women's are one minute less.



Paralympic powerlifting is a bench press competition, with athletes lying flat on a specifically designed bench and then aiming to lower a horizontally weighted bar from arms length, to the chest and return the bar under control to the same starting position. Athletes are classified on bodyweight only, and not their disability.



Rowing in the Paralympics began in 2008, and it's gone from strength-to-strength. All events are raced over 1000 metres, and heats and repechages happen before the finals.



Sailing for disabled people increased in popularity in the 1980s, and there are three boat classes in Rio - the single-handed 2.4mR, the Skud 18, which includes two sailors, one of which must be a woman, as well as the three-person Sonar class. 


Sitting volleyball

The aim of the game is to hit the ball over the lowered net, and teams have three passes before that's allowed to happen. Athletes' pelvis must always be in contact with the floor, and the first team to 25 wins a set, although they must be victorious by two clear points.



Accuracy and skill is required as the aim of the sport is to place a series of shots on the target, which consists of 10 scoring rings. Targets vary in size depending on the event, and all classifications are included, other than visual impairment individuals.



With 39 medals at London 2012, it's one of GB's strongest sports. Athletes choose to either dive in or begin in the pool, depending on their type of disability. The S14 class is new in the Rio Games, for people with learning impairments. 


Table tennis

Matches are played over the best to five sets, with a player needing to reach 11 points although similarly to sitting volleyball, they need a clear two-point advantage to win a set. 



Another Paralympic debutant, there are three classes in the para-triathlon and the three sports that athletes will be busting their gut in will be swimming, running and cycling.


Wheelchair basketball

A popular mainstay sport at the Paralympics, 12 men's teams and 10 women's teams will be competing on the court. After finishing fourth in London, GB's men will be heading to Rio hoping for a medal.


Wheelchair fencing

Wheelchair fencing has three disciplines based on the type of sword used, the foil, epee and sabre. It's the only martial art in the Paralympics, and the paralympic programme is integrated with the Olympic programme for the GB team, based in Walsall.


Wheelchair rugby

It's played indoors on a regular basketball sized court, and it can be viewed as quite aggressive with frequent clashes between wheelchairs. The game was only invented in the 1970s, and was originally called 'murderball' due to its ferocious nature.

Wheelchair tennis

The main difference between the wheelchair and able-bodied tennis is that the ball is allowed to bounce twice in the Paralympics. Jordanne Whiley and Gordon Reid are names to watch out for in the GB squad, following title success at Wimbledon.