Paralympic Sports: Can You Name The 22 Disciplines?

Each Paralympic Games event sees some sports removed from the programme, with others being introduced, or often re-introduced. Cycling, horse riding, rowing, tennis, table tennis, archery and sailing were added to the programme for the London Games in 2012. In 2016 canoeing and para-triathlon were introduced for the Rio Paralympic Games. The 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo will include some familiar sports from recent games, along with a couple of new additions. How many of the Paralympic disciplines can you name?

Archery and Olympic shooting

Both disciplines are open to athletes with disabilities in the lower and upper parts of their body. It is always practised in a wheelchair and employs a functional classification system where the categories are established according to the functional capacity of the athletes.

Para athletics

One of the earliest Paralympic sports, present since the first Rome programme in 1960, athletics offers a wide range of competitions, events and categories, making it suitable for athletes with a variety of disabilities. Events can include: marathon, track, outdoor and combined races.


Making its Paralympic debut at Tokyo 2020 Para badminton has been played competitively since the 1990s.

Wheelchair basketball

Possibly the most practised Paralympic sport in the world. According to the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF), more than 100,000 people play wheelchair basketball recreationally or in elite clubs around the globe.  Find out more about how wheelchair basketball is played in our blog post.


A game of skill, precision and strategy (similar to bocce, or bowls). As a Paralympic sport it can be practiced individually, in pairs or as a team.


Based on triathlon, this sport debuted at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. It is designed for people with various types of disabilities, from wheelchair users or amputees to visually impaired athletes. In the cycling part (20 km), the athletes will be able to use bikes, tricycles or hand bikes just as with Paralympic cycling.


Canoeing made its Paralympic debut at the Rio Paralympic Games in 2016. It is practically identical to canoeing for non-disabled athletes.


With almost thirty years of history cycling has been a Paralympic sport since 1988. Adapted cycling is practiced with bikes, tricycles, tandem bikes or handbikes, both individually or as a team.

Wheelchair fencing

Another Paralympic sport with substantial history, having been introduced at the original 1960 Paralympic Games. The discipline requires remarkable skill and balance as the wheelchair is fixed to the ground.

5-a-side football

Also known as ‘blind-football’, this is an adaptation of the game for players with a visual impairment. All the players wear masks with only the goalkeeper able to see and organise the game.


Goalball was declared a Paralympic sport in 1976, and is exclusively for participants with a visual disability. During the game, absolute silence is enforced, only cheering and clapping are allowed when a goal is scored.

Horse riding

Therapeutic riding (or equine therapy) for people with disabilities has been practiced for decades, although it didn’t become a Paralympic sport until the Atlanta Games in 1996. Depending on their disability, athletes can compete in classical horse riding, skill events or freestyle horse riding with music.

Powerlifting (Weightlifting)

This is one of the most widespread Paralympic sports in the world and can be practised by athletes with spinal injuries, amputations, cerebral palsy or intellectual disabilities. It incorporates up to ten categories depending on the weight of the athlete.


Paralympic sport since 2008 (Beijing), the rules are the same as those of conventional rowing but require the materials (boats and oars) to be adapted to the disability of each athlete.

Wheelchair rugby

Wheelchair rugby, or ‘Murderball’, combines aspects of wheelchair basketball and ice hockey.


Within the Paralympic sports, judo is one of the least adapted to the original sport. The only requirement is that both participants begin the round grasping each other.


Swimming is one of eight sports practised during the first Paralympic Games. As with athletics, it can be practiced by people with physical, visual or intellectual disabilities and in styles similar to conventional swimming.

Table tennis

Another Paralympic sport with minimum adaptation to conventional table tennis. The main difference? The ball can bounce twice.


Making its debut at Tokyo 2020, the sport’s governing body World Taekwondo (WT) began developing the kyorugi (sparring) discipline for Para athletes in 2005. Since 2013, poomsae (martial art forms) is being developed as a competition format for athletes of all impairments.

In the Paralympics, athletes will compete in kyorugi (limb impairments and athletes with an arm amputation).

Adapted tennis

It has been 35 years since the creation of this adapted sport, which remains one of the most practiced in the world. In its Paralympic version, it follows the same rules as conventional tennis, although the ball can bounce twice.

Sitting volleyball

A Paralympic sport composed of mixed teams. Did you know players must have their pelvis touching the ground throughout the whole game?