INTRODUCTION TO PARATRIATHLON CLASSIFICATION
By Julie O’Neill
Janos Schmidt A
s coaches we encounter new athletes on a regular basis — athletes who are formally training
for the first time within our programs, first- timers at races and even those who are new to the sport overall. Introducing a new athlete to a training plan, integrating them into an existing training group, planning for race strategy or simply teaching the sport’s rules and nuances are all critical components to effectively coaching any athlete in the sport, but especially so for those who are new and just beginning to train and compete. This is also true of athletes involved in
paratriathlon. Having a basic understanding of classification may assist coaches in the process of beginning to work with a newcomer athlete who also has a physical impairment.
WHAT IS CLASSIFICATION? Classification is a structure for
competition. Paralympic athletes have an impairment in body structures and functions that leads to a competitive disadvantage in sport. Consequently, criteria are put in place to ensure that winning is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus — the same factors that account for success in sport for athletes who are able-bodied. Classification is the process by which
athletes are assessed by reference to the impact of impairment on their ability to compete in a specific sport.
FAST FACTS ABOUT CLASSIFICATION: Athletes with impairments are grouped
in sport classes defined by the degree of impact presented by the impairment on the ability to compete in the sport.
An athlete’s sport class is determined
by a variety of processes that may include a physical evaluation, technical assessment and observation during competition. The sport classes are defined by each
respective sport’s international federation (If) and form part of the sport’s rules. Traditionally there are five impairment
groups in the Paralympic movement: amputee, cerebral palsy, visual impairment, spinal cord injuries and Les Autres, which includes all impairments that do not fall into the aforementioned groups. All paratriathletes must be classified to
compete in International Triathlon Union (ITU) sanctioned events. In order to be eligible within the ITU
classification system an athlete must have a medically diagnosed condition that causes a permanent impairment that can be measured objectively.
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