One of the most incredible developments in sport this century is the growth of the Paralympics. It has gone from starting as a small event for British World War 2 veterans called the Stoke Mandeville games to be one of the biggest sporting events in the world. The first official Paralympics was in Rome in 1960 with only six events. It included only 400 athletes from just 23 countries. This has been expanded to athletes over 100 countries in recent Paralympics.
The expansion will continue with two new sports being added. The two new sports are para badminton and para taekwondo. There are also two sports that have been left out from the Rio games. The two sports left out are 7-a-side football and sailing. Here are some details about the two newly added sports.
Para badminton has been an internationally contested sport since the 1990s. The first world athletics championships took place in 1998 at Amersfoort, Netherlands. At the Tokyo Games, athletes compete in six different classes, with 63 countries across five regions currently practising Para badminton.
There are six classes (categories with medals) depending on the type and severity of impairment. The classes include people with physical, visual and intellectual impairment. The six classes are WH1 (Wheelchair, severe impairment) WH2 (Wheelchair, mild impairment) SL3 (Standing, lower limb minor impairment) SL4 (Standing, lower limb severe impairment) SU5 (Standing, upper limb impairment) SH6 (Standing/short stature).
India's Podium Hopes
India's best hope for a medal in badminton is Pramod Bhagat in the SL3 category in men's singles. He is ranked number 1 in the world and is a multiple world championships gold medalist in singles and doubles. He is one of India's best hopes of winning a medal in the whole Paralympics.
Another chance for a medal for India is with the doubles team of Palak Kohli and Parul Parmar in the SL3-SU5 women's doubles category. They are ranked number six in the world. They are a remarkable team because there is a 30 year age difference between the pair.
Kyorugi (sparring), the discipline of taekwondo for para athletes began to be developed by World Taekwondo, the sport governing body in 2005. Since 2013, poomsae (martial art forms) is being developed as a competition format for athletes of all impairments. In 2009, the first WTF para taekwondo World Championships were held in Baku, Azerbaijan. In the Paralympics, athletes with limb impairments and athletes with an arm amputation will compete in Kyorugi.
There are two classes for athletes in the Tokyo Paralympics. They are:
K43 includes athletes with bilateral amputation below the elbow or equivalent loss of function in both upper limbs
K44 includes athletes with unilateral arm amputation (or equivalent loss of function), or loss of toes which impact the ability to lift the heel properly
There are three weight categories of athletes in both classes for both genders.
Aruna Singh Tanwar created history after becoming the first para-taekwondo player from India to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics. She qualified after being one of the eight athletes to get a bipartite quota. Hailing from Dinod village near the Bhiwani district, Aruna's journey from a small part of Haryana to shining at the international stage is an inspirational one of persistence and determination against the odds.