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Five Paralympic sports you may not know about

Posted at 8:30 am, August 28, 2012 in Olympics & Paralympics
Boccia © LOCOG

No matter how up-to-date we think we are these days with all things sporting, the Olympics didn’t teach us everything. We may now be well-versed in the language of handball and the modern pentathlon but there are still some slightly more obscure sports that you may not be familiar with. With the Paralympics just around the corner, we thought we’d get you up to speed on a few.


Boccia is a precision sport focusing on muscle control and accuracy which resembles boules. Athletes propel balls towards a white target ball known as the jack playing either four ends (that’s rounds to you and me) for individual and pairs and six ends for teams. Each player, pair or team gets six balls during each end and the athlete, pair or team whose ball is closest to the jack at the close of an end scores one point, and an extra point for every ball that’s closer to the jack than the opposition’s closest ball.

Players must be in a wheelchair as a result of cerebral palsy or other related locomotor conditions such as muscular dystrophy. There are four classifications relating to the athletes ability within the sport. They are:

BC1 – athletes with cerebral palsy who can either kick or throw the ball

BC2 – athletes with cerebral palsy who find it a little easier to throw than BC1 athletes

BC3 – athletes with cerebral palsy who cannot independently kick or throw the ball three metres, and who therefore use a ramp

BC4 – athletes with an impairment other than cerebral palsy who have difficulty in throwing the ball

There are seven medals up for grabs and men and woman compete together.



We all know the basics of 5-a-side football but for the Paralympics, it has a few distinct differences. It is a game for visually impaired athletes using a ball containing noise conducting bearings. The four field players of each team are blindfolded to ensure fairness. The goalkeeper can be fully sighted and each team is permitted to have a sighted guide behind each goal and within the middle third of the field (usually the coach). All guides (including the goalkeeper) can shout instructions to the players. There are no throw-ins or corners so it’s just non-stop action.


Like 5-a-side football, 7-a-side football in the Paralympics has rules and regulations that we are very familiar with but with a few modifications. For one, the offside rule doesn’t apply which will always make watching football easier to follow and throw-ins can be done one-handed. The sport is played by athletes with cerebral palsy and each team is made up of athletes falling under the following classifications:

C5 – athletes with difficulties when walking and running, but not when standing or kicking a ball.

C6 – athletes with control and coordination problems of their upper limbs, especially when running.

C7 – athletes with coordination problems in one arm and leg on the same side of the body.

C8 – minimal disability athletes; they must meet eligibility criteria and have an obvious impairment that has an impact on their ability to play football.

Teams must include at least one athlete with either C5 or C6 classification. If this is not possible, the team must play with six players. No more than three C8 players are allowed to play at the same time.


A sport where each throw is effectively a shot at goal, there’s no wonder that Goalball is regarded as the most exciting sport in the Paralympics and is played by over 100 countries worldwide. Each team consists of three visually impaired players that must wear blackout masks to ensure fairness. The athletes then take turns rolling a ball that contains bells into the opponents net which spans the entire edge of the pitch. Each team has 10 seconds to throw the ball and anyone can take it but each player may only take two consecutive shots before another teammate has to take the ball. Most goals win within two twelve minute periods.

Sitting Volleyball

Played by two teams of six, the rules of sitting volleyball are very similar to that of the Olympic counterpart with the biggest difference being that a part of the athlete’s body from the buttocks to the shoulder must be in contact with the floor when they are attempting to land the ball in the opponents half of the court. Each play must consist of no more than three touches before the ball crosses the net, usually in the form of a set and spike. Players are classed as either Disabled or Minimally Disabled and as the names suggest, Disabled athletes have an impairment that has a greater impact on their game than the Minimally Disabled. Many Minimally Disabled athletes are players that play standing volleyball but have acquired a significant injury to their ankle and only one Minimally Disabled player is permitted per team.

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