What is Classification?
Classification is defined as “grouping athletes into sport classes according to how much their impairment affects fundamental activities in each specific sport and discipline” (November 2015 IPC Athlete Classification Code, art. 2.1).
What is the purpose of Classification?
Classification provides a structure for competition. Athletes competing in Para sports have an impairment that leads to a competitive disadvantage. Consequently, a system has to be put in place to minimise the impact of impairments on sport performance and to ensure the success of an athlete is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus. This system is called classification.
Is there one classification system for all sports?
No, each International Sports Federation or Para Sport must have and publish their own classification system. For example, the classification system and classes for swimming will be different for those in athletics, boccia or sailing. This is because each sport is different and, therefore, the effect of the impairment on each sport will be different.
How is Classification performed?
Classification for individuals with Cerebral Palsy and similar neurological conditions are performed by a minimum of two trained classifiers approved by the international sporting federation responsible for that particular Para Sport. There is normally one medical classifier and one technical classifier. For example, the International Paralympic Committee is responsible for the classification system in Para Athletics whereas BISfed is the organisation responsible for the classification system in Boccia. The classification assessment will test the individual’s levels of function, coordination and movement. Classifiers will also do a technical assessment and will observe individual athletes in competition.
Will I be classified more than once?
An athlete will undergo at least 2 classifications. The first will be at National level and the second will be an International Classification. The format for each classification should be very similar.
At international level, an athlete will normally receive a confirmed classification after their first competition. The exceptions to this are where athletes may not have reached physical maturity or they are new to the sports and lack technical maturity in the sport.
Athletes who have a progressive condition will never receive a confirmed classification because their condition may change. These athletes may be seen by a classification panel at every international competition or they may be given a fixed review which means they will be seen by a panel at a fixed date in the future e.g. every two years.
If an athlete’s medical condition changes or they have undergone a medical procedure or operation, they can request to be re-classified if they feel their ability to perform in their sport has changed.
How do I get Classified?
The best way of getting classified is to approach your national disability sport organisation, your national Paralympic Committee or the national governing body which governs your Para Sport. They will advise you on the best way forward.
I want to be a Classifier, how can I become one?
To be a classifier, you need a medical background or have a technical knowledge of the specific sport or sport science. If you have such qualifications and want to get involved you should contact your National Paralympic Committee or National Governing body for the sport you are interested in. If you have any problems finding the appropriate pathway, you can contact us at email@example.com.
Where can I find more information?
Further detail on the (complex) matter of classification in the Paralympic Movement is available from the IPC website: https://www.paralympic.org/classification.