Similar to Olympic Games, Paralympics are also held every four years, organised by the International Paralympic Committee and played by more than 170 countries. While the IPC is in charge of overseeing the management of nine sports, the others are organised by non-para international sports federations and some of disability-specific international federations. In India, various non-para national federations are in charge of the games for the para games as well. For example, the Table Tennis Federation of India is also the governing body for para table tennis. Similarly, the Indian Wheelchair Tennis Tour conducts tournaments for All India Tennis Association-ranked para players.
But there is a severe lack of awareness among India’s sporting federations. A lot of them don’t conduct or organise para games, which hampers the growth and development of these sports. And issues with classification have a huge role to play in this.
Moreover, there is a huge difference between the budget allocated for Olympics and Paralympics, yet para-athletes have done wonders. The sports ministry should increase the budget for Paralympics.
India needs to do a lot more to increase talent pool
India has been facing issues in classification due to the lack of qualified classifiers and very high cost of classification for new players, who have to travel abroad for this purpose. One hopes that Indian para-athletes’ performance at the Tokyo Paralympics 2020 change this and more para-athletes will be able to compete in the future.
For smooth induction of para-athletes into various professional sports, it is very necessary to increase the number of qualified classifiers in India and the Sports Authority of India needs to boost opportunities for top athletes to qualify. Fair classification during nationals organised by the Paralympic Committee of India, national federations and SAI with qualified officials would help increase the talent pool. This will help many upcoming talents to perform well in future international tournaments.
Why disability-specific classification is necessary
Paralympic covers all forms of disabilities, whether it’s vision impairment, orthopedic deficiency such as limb deficiency and amputation, muscular disability, and even intellectual
disability. And it’s not just athletics but other sports such as shooting, archery, table tennis are also included. Moreover, these sports are further broken down into categories or classification based on disabilities; for instance, wheelchair tennis has two categories while table tennis has ten.
All Paralympic sports follow the same system. Classification for athletes in any particular sport is determined by the same measures/extent of movement disability.
Today, disabled athletes have the avenue to compete for medals as per their specific disabilities and aren’t clubbed together so as to avoid any injustice that may originate from athletes with different disabilities participating the same sports together. This was achieved mainly through ‘classification’. To make this uniform, the IPC came up with a ‘code’ book in 2007, which it fine-tuned in 2015 with several amendments.
Pradeep Raj is a former para-athlete, disability rights activist and general secreatry @Para_India. He tweets @ipradeepraj. Views are personal.