Need to Know for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020:For the uninitiated, like the Olympics, all para athletes must qualify at a trials event or through another measured standard determined by the International Paralympic Committee. Beyond that, each sport has classifications that signify an impairment that the athletes live with daily to ensure fairness. For example, gold medalist David Brown is a T-11 sprinter in track and field, indicating low visual acuity (Brown himself is completely blind and will compete this year in the 100 and 200 meter races). Other classifications include limb deficiency, involuntary movement, muscle tension, and short stature. You can learn more about the system here.
The Paralympics kick off with an opening ceremony August 24th (live at 7 a.m. EST on NBCSN with a primetime broadcast at 7 p.m.). Coverage mostly takes place on the Olympic Channel and NBCSN daily, with broadcasts also slated to air on NBC over the weekend. You can also stream the Tokyo Paralympics online on Peacock, though you’ll need a Peacock Premium account (you can watch the 2020 Paralympics online free with Peacock’s 7-day free trial).
Just like the Olympics, it can be hard to whittle down the many storylines to keep an eye on from the cutting edge technology these athletes use to the inevitable political complications to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic (again, no spectators). Below are a few places to give yourself an advantage at the starting
Among the nearly two dozen sports in the Paralympics program, two are making their debut this year. First is badminton, for which there are singles, doubles, and mixed disciplines in both standing and wheelchair classifications. Second is taekwondo, in which athletes with arm amputations or limitations, attempt to score points by kicking their opponent. Three-time world champion Leani Ratri Oktila (SL4) of Indonesia will go for one of the first-ever Paralympic gold medals in the former while 2017 world champion Evan Medell (K44) represents Team USA in the latter. In addition, canoe spring welcomes the addition of va’a boats, which are approximately 2 meters longer than a kayak with added float on the side to maintain balance (the boats are originally from Polynesia, so think: Moana).
There are also two sports solely played during the Paralympics. Boccia is similar to bowling and curling, with athletes (generally those with motor function impairment) trying to get the bocce ball as close to a target as possible. Goalball, played with blindfolds, features two teams of three as they attempt to roll a ball into their opponents net, who try to block it from going in with their bodies. The ball has bells inside it so the athletes can hear it coming.
Even the sports adapted from the Olympic program look different. Competitions like wheelchair fencing and wheelchair rugby (sometimes called “murderball”) bring a whole new level of excitement to a game normally played on foot. Frequently involving attack moves, the addition of athletes on wheels adds an element of speed — and danger — to the Paralympics that’s very enjoyable to watch.