Classification 101

Have you ever wondered how para athletes with varying disabilities compete against each other? As defined by the International Paralympic Committee, classification is the system that “determines which athletes are eligible to compete in a sport and how athletes are grouped together for competition. This, to a certain extent, is similar to grouping athletes by age, gender or weight.” The classification system has been designed so that athletes who succeed in competition do so on the basis of their sporting ability including their technical skill, fitness, mental focus, and tactical ability. Athletes are classified according to their activity limitation resulting from their disability which is termed “impairment” in the context of classification.

Assessment & Sport Classes

Athletes go through an evaluation that groups them into their “sport class,” according to their physical, intellectual, or sensorial function, in a sport. These include standardized tests performed by the athlete and assessed by a classification panel. Athletes will undergo physical, psychological, or visual examinations depending on the nature of their impairment.

The classification evaluation may also include a technical assessment, and observation on the field of play. Different sports require different activities and movements, so classification is sport-specific. An athlete who is eligible to compete in one sport may not be eligible in another. Once classified, athletes in the same sport class compete against each other.

Sport Class Status

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 may take place several times over the course of their career, including at the Paralympic Games.

There are 3 main sport class statuses:

New (N) – is assigned to athletes who have been nationally classified, but not yet internationally classified according to the sport rules.

Review (R) – is assigned to athletes who have been internationally classified according to the relevant sport rules, but are subject to review. Review status may be assigned to an athlete due to a fluctuating or progressive impairment, or to a young athlete who has not yet reached physical maturation.

Confirmed (C) – is assigned to athletes who have been internationally classified according to the relevant sport rules and the panel is satisfied the athlete’s impairment will remain stable.

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.

What is CPC’s role in classification?

The CPC supports its member National Sport Organizations (NSO) through its leadership in developing a National Classification Strategy, providing grants for athletes to get classified as well as classifier training, and liaising with International Sport Federations where required to support NSO’s interest.