MOSCOW, March 07, /ITAR-TASS/. First attempts to classify Paralympic athletes were based on their diagnoses. Each type (spinal injuries, amputations, head injuries) was divided in categories applied to both summer and winter disciplines.
Later, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) worked out new, “functional” classification that pegged each category not to the diagnosis but an athlete’s functional capability of performing in a discipline. For instance, Paralympic athletes with their lower extremities amputated or crippled may compete together in those disciplines where their functional abilities are equal (e.g. wheelchair racing). This classification’s important feature is that it varies by disciplines, that is one athlete can fall under different categories depending on the discipline he or she performs.
Since the functional state of an athlete can change with time, each athlete goes through classification procedure several times during their Paralympic career.
In cross-country skiing, biathlon and Alpine skiing athletes compete in three categories, which, in turn, fall into classes:
1) athletes competing in standing (LW 1-9 classes), including:
a) LW 1-4 classes for athletes with lower-extremity disability;
b) LW 5 and 7 for athletes with both upper extremities injured, which prevents the use of ski poles;
c) LW 6 and 8 for athletes with injury of one upper extremity which allows for the use of only one ski pole;
d) LW 9 for athletes with both upper and lower extremities disabled;
2) athletes competing in sitting events on a monoski (LW 10-12)
3) visually challenged athletes entitled to use a sighted guide or a leader (B 1-3).
Paralympic medals are awarded in each of the three categories. A special system calculates athletes’ results according to class using mathematical formulae worked out by the IPC.
The Games in Sochi will see the first-ever Paralympic competition in para-snowboard. Two sets of medals will be available in standing competitions, men’s and women’s. Since this is the discipline’s debut, performance will be assessed regardless of functional classification.
In two other winter Paralympic disciplines, wheelchair curling and sledge-hockey athletes, athletes are not divided into classes.