Next year, disabled athletes from across the world will congregate in Japan to compete in the summer Paralympic games. More than four thousand athletes are expected to attend, and they’ll participate in more than five-hundred events in twenty-two different sports.

The games have received more attention from broadcasters in recent years, and thus they’re able to draw in an unprecedented global audience. This is great news for the sports themselves, as well as disabled people more broadly; representation on television tends to inspire empathy among spectators who might not actually have a disabled person in their life. This is part of a more widespread accessibility revolution, which takes the form of ramps, lifts, and specialised wheelchair-friendly cars from Allied Mobility and others.

The sports being competed in change regularly. But what new additions are we going to enjoy this time around?

What’s new?

The new sports to watch out for are taekwondo and badminton.

Taekwondo will take place over six weight divisions – three for each gender. There are actually two forms of this martial art adapted for disabled athletes: Poomsae and Gyeorugi, which are designed for mentally impaired and upper-limb impaired combatants respectively. Only Gyeorugi will feature in the 2020 games. Otherwise, the rules are largely similar tothose which govern the Olympic sport, and the competition will take place on the same octagonal court. There are three two-minute rounds, separated by one-minute intervals.

Badminton has been around for such a long time that it’s surprising it hasn’t been included sooner. Demand for the sport is considerable, with ninety players facing off in a series of singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Athletes are divided into six classes, including two wheelchair classes, but the height of the net and the scoring is the same for everyone. Manoeuvring a wheelchair around a tiny basketball court requires incredible athleticism, before we even consider the part where you have to hit the shuttlecock; thus this is sure to be a worthy spectacle.

What’s being dropped?

To make way for the two new sports, two old ones are being dispensed with, namely 7-a-side football and sailing. These were deemed to have insufficient appeal internationally, which makes sense given the resources required to go sailing, and the fact that there’s already a football event in the form of five-a-side.

What other events are worth looking out for?

Of course, several of the classic events are making a return in Tokyo 2020, including road and track cycling events, ‘goalball’ for visually impaired athletes and a raft of wheelchair events, including boccia, rugby, tennis, basketball, and archery.

The games are to open on the 25th of August, and will take place over the course of two weeks.


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