What is Classification

Classification is a sport-based system of levelling the competition playing field for athletes with a physical disability. The classification system has been designed so that athletes who succeed in competition do so on the basis of their sporting ability. Athletes are classified according to their activity limitation resulting from their disability.

Athletes go through an evaluation that groups them into a competitive “sport class,” according to their physical or sensorial function, in a sport. These include standardized tests performed by the athlete and assessed by a classification panel. Athletes with a visual impairment complete an ophthalmology examination. The classification evaluation may include a technical assessment, and observation on the field of play. Athletes in the same sport class compete against each other.

Classification for Paralympic Games

Wherever possible, an athlete’s classification status is confirmed before arriving at the Paralympic Games. For athletes who have a changing or progressive condition that requires ongoing evaluation to ensure the athletes are in the right class, classification takes place at the Games.

There are 3 sport class statuses:

Confirmed (C) – is assigned to athletes who have been internationally classified according to the relevant sport rules and are not under-review.  C-status athletes are not required to undergo classification evaluation at the Games.

Review (R) – is assigned to athletes who have been internationally classified according to the relevant sport rules, but are subject to review. R-status athletes are required to undergo classification evaluation and/or be observed during competition at the Games.

New (N) – is assigned to athletes who have not been internationally classified according to the sport rules. N – status athletes are only eligible for entry into Paralympic Games under exceptional circumstances, and their sport class status is assigned following the same process as R-status athletes. This is the only case where National Paralympic Committees from opposing countries can lodge a protest against an opposing athlete’s classification.

Each Paralympic Games has a chief classifier assigned by the International Paralympic Committee or the ISF. There is also a chief classifier for each sport and one chief classifier for athletes with visual impairments.

Who Classifies the Athletes

Classification for each sport is regulated by the International Sport Federation (ISF) for each sport and must comply with the IPC Classification Code and International Standards. Athletes are classified by an international panel of accredited classifiers trained by the ISFs. Published sport-specific classification criteria are used to guide the assessment of each athlete.

Classifiers are certified officials who qualify through practical and course work.

Typically, a classification panel is made up of two or more classifiers who evaluate each athlete.