Classification is an integral part of athletics for disabled athletes which enables fair competition amongst all competitors. It also determines if an athlete is eligible for the Paralympic Pathway, the events they can enter, the use of guide runners, whether throws are ambulant or seated, and the size / type of throwing implements. Within athletics there is a range of classification groups. Each group is subdivided into classes depending on the level of impairment. There are strict criteria attached to each class.
The classification process in Athletics is based on IPC classification which identifies the athletes’ functional ability in relation to the event group in which they are competing. The athlete undergoes a series of mobility tests and is seen in competition by qualified classifiers.
The Paralympic Pathway for Athletics currently includes athletes from the following impairment groups:
- Blind and partially sighted - Most T&F events
- Athletes with cerebral palsy - Most T&F events
- Amputees - Most T&F events
- Wheelchair users - Seated throws & wheelchair racing, including Marathon (wheelchair track and marathon races)
- Dwarf athletes - shot put / discus / javelin (men) and shot put / discus (women)
- Athletes with an intellectual impairment - Long jump, shot and 1500m
All events and eligibility are subject to classification. Once an athlete has a national classification they will be issued with a UKA Card confirming the classification group(s) and an expiry date. Young athletes may need to be re-classified once they reach 18 years old. Apart from entering IPC and UKA sanctioned events, a classified athlete can use Club or Open Meets to register additional performances onto the UK National Disability rankings – see www.thepowerof10.info.
Athletes with a visual impairment
Athletes with a visual impairment are not subject to the functional classification process in the same way as athletes with physical impairments. Classification for athletes with a visual impairment involves an eye test that must be carried out by an Ophthalmologist / Optometrist. The athlete will receive an official classification and must bring this information to competitions. Only athletes who receive a classification through this system will be eligible for IPC Competition. The form that must be completed by an Ophthalmologist / Optometrist can be found at the British Blind Sport website.
Athletes with an intellectual disability
In the UK, there are two levels of classification for athletes with a learning disability:
- UK (national) Classification which is managed by the UK Sports Association and enables athletes to take part in most of the competitions in the UK. Classification information is on the Mencap website.
- International (INAS) Classification which enables athletes to compete in European and World Championships.
Learning Disability athletes (the T/F20 classification group) competed in the Paralympics in 2012 in the 1500m, Long Jump and Shot Put.
Athletes who are deaf or hard of hearing
There is not a Paralympic Pathway for D/deaf athletes. However, opportunities do exist via UK Deaf Sport. Please note the standards for this impairment group internationally are above County and Regional club level. If an athlete is not eligible for the Paralympic Pathway there are other options to ensure the athlete can continue to enjoy the sport.
The equivalent Paralympics competition is the Deaflympics - an IOC-sanctioned event at which deaf athletes compete at an elite level. The event takes place every 4 years - the next is in Athens in 2013.
To be eligible for participation, the pre-requisites for athletes are:
- They have to be deaf, defined as a hearing loss of at least 55Db in the better ear (3 tone frequency average of 500, 1,000 and 2,000 Hertz, ANSI 1969 standard).
- They have to be citizen of a nation member of the Deaflympics.
- They are restricted from using hearing aids or external cochlear implant aids during any Deaflympics event.
Classification website links
IPC Classification ipc-athletics.paralympic.org/Classification/
Sight Form www.britishblindsport.org.uk/images/contents/sight%20form11.pdf
Intellectual impairments www.mencap.org.uk/what-we-do/our-services/leisure-and-sport/mencap-sport/eligibility-and-classification
Audiogram Form deafukathletics.org.uk/audiogram.pdf