Today, or tour of the Paralympics landscape takes in three disciplines, encompassing a diverse range of skills:

Sailing Shooting Swimming

Sailing, Shooting, and Swimming.

My thanks, as ever, to the people behind the official London 2012 Paralympics website:

for facts and figures.

We begin.


Sailing for athletes with a disability began to develop as a competitive sport in the 1980s. It was introduced to the Paralympic Games as a demonstration event at Atlanta 1996.

The sport’s name was changed from Yachting to Sailing at the Sydney 2000 Games, where it became a full medal event.

80 athletes will be sailing for gold in the waters of Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

There will be three medal events:

Mixed competition

Single-Person Keelboat (2.4mR)
Three-Person Keelboat (Sonar)
Two-Person Keelboat (SKUD18)

What’s a keelboat?

Well, the yachts used in Paralympic Sailing have keels – longitudinal beams (or plates) of the hull of a vessel. Keels can extend vertically into the water to provide lateral stability. These keelboats also have open cockpits to allow more room for the sailors.

Each country is limited to one boat in each event (six athletes in total).

The classification system for Sailing assigns a point score to each athlete based on the athlete’s ability to perform tasks specific to the sport. The higher the point score, the more ability the athlete is considered to have.

Classification is used to level the playing field where there are a variety of disability levels. In the Three-Person Keelboat, for example, the total classification points of all three sailors must not exceed a maximum of 14.

Each event consists of 11 races. Points in each race are awarded according to position: the winner gets one point, the second-placed finisher scores two, and so on. The individual or crew with the fewest total points is declared the winner.

All races are fleet races; all boats start at the same time. In each event, points from the worst race are discarded. The remaining points are added together to give an overall score to determine the medals.

Officials will include equipment inspectors (ensuring all equipment is within the rules of the class and the competition), international judges (making decisions on the rules, and applying penalties when necessary), and international race officers (ensuring all races are run fairly and within the rules of the competition).

Penalties include having to take an extra one or two turns (turning your boat 360 or 720 degrees through the wind), or receiving a scoring penalty.


Shooting is a test of accuracy and control, in which athletes use pistols or rifles to fire at static targets.

Shooting competitions last for between 75 and 120 minutes.

At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, 12 events are being held in the historic surroundings of The Royal Artillery Barracks:

Men’s competition

Men’s R1-10m Air Rifle Standing-SH1
Men’s R7-50m Rifle 3 Positions-SH1
Men’s P1-10m Air Pistol-SH1

Women’s competition

Women’s R2-10m Air Rifle Standing-SH1
Women’s R8-50m Rifle 3 Positions-SH1
Women’s P2-10m Air Pistol-SH1

Mixed competition

Mixed R3-10m Air Rifle Prone-SH1
Mixed R4-10m Air Rifle Standing-SH2
Mixed R5-10m Air Rifle Prone-SH2
Mixed R6-50m Rifle Prone-SH1
Mixed P3-25m Pistol-SH1
Mixed P4-50m Pistol-SH1

Each country is limited to three athletes in each event, with a total of five athletes across all events.

Classification for the athletes is based on the following standards:

SH1 – athletes who can support the weight of their firearm themselves
SH2 – athletes who use a shooting stand for support

Athletes shoot at stationary targets in a range, shooting from a distance of 10m, 25m and 50m.

In both Rifle and Pistol events, competitors aim at a 10-ringed target and (depending on the event), athletes are required to shoot from standing, kneeling or prone (lying down) positions.

Shooters fire at paper targets containing concentric scoring rings. In the qualification rounds, each ring is worth points from one to 10, with one point as the outer ring and 10 at the center.

In the final, the outside ring is worth 10 points and the center is worth 10.9 points.

Shooting has been part of the Paralympic Games since Toronto 1976, when three events were held.

Since the Sydney 2000 Games, a standard 12 events have been included.


With 600 swimmers competing in nearly 150 medal events across 10 days in the new Aquatics Centre, the Swimming competition at the Paralympic Games boasts the second largest number of athletes and events at the Games:

Men’s competition

Men’s 50m Freestyle
Men’s 100m Freestyle
Men’s 200m Freestyle
Men’s 400m Freestyle
Men’s 1500m Freestyle
Men’s 100m Backstroke
Men’s 200m Backstroke
Men’s 100m Breaststroke
Men’s 200m Breaststroke
Men’s 100m Butterfly
Men’s 200m Butterfly
Men’s 200m Individual Medley
Men’s 400m Individual Medley
Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay
Men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay
Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay
Men’s 10km Marathon

Women’s competition

Women’s 50m Freestyle
Women’s 100m Freestyle
Women’s 200m Freestyle
Women’s 400m Freestyle
Women’s 800m Freestyle
Women’s 100m Backstroke
Women’s 200m Backstroke
Women’s 100m Breaststroke
Women’s 200m Breaststroke
Women’s 100m Butterfly
Women’s 200m Butterfly
Women’s 200m Individual Medley
Women’s 400m Individual Medley
Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay
Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay
Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay
Women’s 10km Marathon

Each country is limited to 34 men and 26 women, and to a maximum of three athletes in each individual event.

Swimmers are classified according to how their impairment affects their ability to perform each stroke.

Classes are:

1-10: athletes with physical impairments. Class 1 swimmers’ impairment has the greatest impact on their ability to perform strokes; class 10 swimmers’ has the least impact.
11-13: athletes with a visual impairment. Class 11 swimmers have little or no sight; class 13 swimmers have limited sight.
14: athletes with an intellectual impairment compete in class 14.

There are four strokes used in Paralympic competition:
Freestyle (essentially, front crawl), Backstroke, Breaststroke and Butterfly.

All four strokes feature in the Individual Medley (apart from the 150m Individual Medley, where only Backstroke, Breaststroke and Freestyle feature) and Medley Relay events. Swimmers also compete in Freestyle Relay.

Breaststroke uses greater leg propulsion than any other stroke, therefore athletes with a physical impairment often have a different class for this event than for Freestyle, Backstroke and Butterfly. This is also taken into account when athletes compete in the Individual Medley.

In all events other than the Backstroke, swimmers usually start with a dive from the starting podium. In Paralympic competition aided starts are allowed, such as from standing beside the podium, from a sitting position, in the water or having assistance with balance while on the podium. In no cases may this allow an unfair advantage.

When turning and finishing, some part of the swimmers body must touch the end wall of the pool.

Visually impaired swimmers wear blackened goggles to ensure that competition is fair. Goggles are removed at the end of the race and checked by an official. They each have someone acting as a ‘tapper’, who uses a pole to tap the swimmer when they approach the wall, indicating when they should turn or end the race.

The swimming pool is 50m long, 25m wide and three meters deep. It is divided into 10 lanes, although only the center eight lanes are used for the Games.

Paralympic races in the pool are conducted over a variety of distances, from 50m (one length of the pool) up to 400m (eight lengths). The first athlete to touch the electronic finishing pad at the end of the pool in each race is the winner.

Races start with heats, the number of which depends on the number of swimmers in the event.

Swimmers are seeded in advance and these seedings are used to determine the heat each swimmer starts in. The top seeds will be placed in different heats.

Seedings are also used to determine the lane each athlete will swim in. The higher the seeding, the closer swimmer is to the center lanes of the pool.

The top eight swimmers from the heats progress to the final. As in the heats, the swimmers’ seedings are used to decide which lane they are allocated.

Swimming is one of the few sports to have featured at every Paralympic Games since Rome 1960.

That’s it, for this session.

Keep it here, for our next instalment.