Archery, athletics, and swimming are just some of the 22 sport categories in which the 4,537 athletes attending the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games compete.
Unlike the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games has a classification system that measures and evaluates the level of physical, vision, or intellectual impairment athletes have in order to ensure fair competition. So, what does S13 mean?
So, what does S13 stand for? It's one of the Paralympics Games classifications.
Athletes attending the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games have physical, vision, or intellectual impairments. Not every sports event is open to every athlete. Take, for instance, archery, in which only athletes with an eligible physical impairment can compete. Swimming, on the other hand, is one one of the few sports events attended by athletes with all types of impairments. So, what exactly does S13 refer to?
Each sport has a sports-specific classification system. In swimming, S refers to freestyle, butterfly, and backstroke events. Meanwhile, SB stands for breaststroke. SM is individual medley. The numbers used with S, SB, and SM denote the kind of impairments athletes have. Physical impairments run from one to 10, vision impairments from 11 to 13. 14 refers to intellectual impairment.
When it comes to physical and vision impairments, the numbers run in reverse order, meaning one refers to the most severe impairments, and 10 the least severe. So, a swimmer competing in freestyle or butterfly with a severe physical impairment will be competing under S1. Meanwhile, a swimmer partaking in individual medley with the least severe impairment will be classed as SM10.
Likewise, those with the most severe vision impairments will be attending events coded with S11, SB11, and SM11. Those with the least severe vision impairment will be partaking in events marked with S13, SB13, or SM13.
Athletes with intellectual impairments have an independent category. S14 refers to freestyle, butterfly, and backstroke events attended by athletes with an intellectual impairment. SB14 stands for breaststroke events attended by athletes with an intellectual impairment, while SM14 is for individual medley.
The categories were put in place to ensure fair competition.
While it may seem complicated at first glance, the categorization system fulfills an important role. Without grouping together athletes based on how well they are able to perform in different sports events, the organizers would risk putting less impaired athletes into a more advantageous position.
As the International Paralympic Committee outlines on its website, only athletes with an underlying health condition that leads to an eligible impairment can compete. Eligible impairments are broken down into the following categories: impaired muscle power, impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency, leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis, vision impairment, and intellectual impairment.
But not every athlete with the above classifies. Only those who pass the minimum impairment criteria will partake in their chosen sport. To make matters slightly more complicated, sports events like archery, goalball, or Football 5-a-side are only open to athletes with specific types of impairment.