This summer, Rio de Janeiro was home to both the Olympic and the Paralympic Games. Starting two weeks after the Olympics, the Paralympics are just as, if not more, exciting than the original games. The Paralympics are basically the same thing as the Olympics but those competing have some form of disability. With 23 sports, 160 countries, and 1,140 athletes, all athletes involved performed to the best of their ability. Over the course of the games, 132 world records were broken and 214 paralympic records. China rose victorious with 239 overall medals. Team USA finished strong in fourth place with an overall medal count of 115 medals.

There are ten different impairments this year at the games which include: impaired muscle power, leg length difference, visual impairment, and intellectual impairment. Since every athlete’s story is different, the classification system ensures fairness among athletes. Different classes were made to give all competitors equal conditions. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is in charge of determining which athletes can and cannot compete against each other. The athletes compete in variations of sports we know and love as well as sports specially designed for disabled people. Goalball is a sport for those who have visual impairments. Those in wheelchairs also play modified versions of basketball, fencing, rugby, and tennis.

Some athletes require certain equipment for assistance in events. All wheelchairs in sports, like basketball, need to be the same to ensure fairness. Leg prosthetics are required in track events, but are optional in field events. Visually impaired runners sometimes have rope tethers to link them to their sighted guides in track events. The current method for swimmers with visual impairments is having a guide stand at the edge of the pool with a long pole to tap the swimmer’s head as they get closer to the wall. Although this works, new technology is being developed to do away with this system. Swim caps are currently being designed that alerts the swimmer when the wall is approaching. Technology isn’t always reliable because there are opportunities to modify it in order to cheat. The IPC has realized that double amputees have an advantage in track events because their legs can be made longer with prosthetics, causing them to run faster. They are taking this into consideration, trying to ensure all athletes have an equal opportunity at success.

The first death at the paralympic games occurred this year. Iranian cyclist, Bahman Golbarnezhad, crashed in the Men’s Road Race C4-5 for athletes with lower limb impairments or amputations. Golbarnezhad lost his left leg in the 1980s while fighting in the Iran-Iraq war. After his crash, Golbarnezhad received immediate treatment before being transported to a hospital where he later died at the age of forty-eight. The Iranian flag flew at half-staff in the paralympic village, and a moment of silence was observed at the closing ceremony for him as well. Officials are unsure of the cause of the crash but are investigating.

Since the Paralympics aren’t as advertised as the Olympics, many Riverbend Students didn’t have the opportunity to watch the games.  Riverbend junior Rose Fanara said, “I think it’s good that they [The Paralympic Games] are held.” despite not watching the games. Junior Grace Saunders added, “It’s a way to recognize talented people who overcame challenges in their lives.”

Out of the 267 athletes on Team USA, five of them are from Virginia. Josh Brunais, midfielder for the Men’s 7 A Side Soccer FT6, lives in Stafford, Virginia. Brunais enrolled in the Army right out of high school, achieving the rank of Staff Sergeant. He retired in 2015 because of wounds he sustained from an IED blast. This year was his first Paralympic Games, at the age of 29. By a vote of his teammates, Brunais was chosen to carry the American flag in the Closing Ceremony.

There are other events like the Paralympic games that are similar to world tournaments. IPC Athletics held the European Championships and Asia-Oceania Championships earlier this year. In 2017, the World ParaAthletics Championships will be in London.  If you didn’t get the chance the watch the Paralympic games, you don’t have to wait four years for the next IPC Athletics competition.