Athletics is a traditional sport at the Paralympic Games. The first official competitions for athletes with disabilities took place in 1952 in Stoke Mandeville, England, with races for wheelchair users in a competition staged for veterans of World War II.
The sport has been part of the Paralympic program since the first edition of the Games, in Rome, in 1960. Over the years, new categories were created so that men and women with various types of disabilities could compete - whether physical, sensory or intellectual, with the latter being presented as a demonstration.
To even up competition, athletes are separated according to their functional ability, and also compete with wheelchairs and prosthetics. Visually impaired athletes may be accompanied by a guide, who runs at their side attached by a rope. The guide’s function is to orientate the competitor - but without pulling him. If this happens, they are both disqualified.
Paralympic athletics is governed by the rules of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), and with adaptations made by the IPC - Athletics, a division of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) responsible for the sport.
The Paralympic program has track events - short, medium and long distance races, as well as relay races and the marathon, field events - jumping and throwing - and combined events - the pentathlon, for both men and women, with five tests which vary according to the participant’s category.
Track events begin with qualifying heats, with the best competitors or teams advancing to the semi-finals and the final. Field competitions start with already in the finals - when there are many competitors, they are divided into two groups and the top eight compete with each other in the last three attempts. The system is different in the pentathlon: each athlete’s performance earns points, and the point totals over the two days of competition define the final positions.