Rio Paralympics 2016: Your guide to what the different classifications mean video

Nikita Horwath of New Zealand competes in the women's 50m butterfly.

Nikita Horwath of New Zealand competes in the women's 50m butterfly.

In Para-sport, classifications provide structure that allows athletes to compete against each other on a fair playing field, where success is determined by skill rather than the severity of their impairment.

To compete in Para-sport, athletes must have one of 10 types of impairment that are either physical, visual or intellectual in nature.

They are then evaluated and given a sport-specific class, which determines how they will compete and who they will compete against in their chosen sport. Some sports cater for athletes with all kinds of impairment, while some do not. 

Kiwi Sophie Pascoe, 23, celebrates another win.

Kiwi Sophie Pascoe, 23, celebrates another win.

* Paralympics NZ expects to double London gold haul
* Javelin thrower Holly Robinson reaching the sharp end
* Reynolds and Howarth dream of swimming for gold
* Chris Sharp and para-sailors aim to surprise
* Sharpshooter Jason Eales targets glory
* Para-cyclists get up to speed for Rio
* Meet Liam Malone, the Kiwi Blade Runner
* Anna Grimaldi leaps onto the world stage

In each sport, a classification consists of a prefix and a number.

Below is a sport-by-sport guide to how they work, focusing on the events Kiwi athletes are competing in.

Holly Robinson is one of the 31-strong New Zealand Paralympic team.

Holly Robinson is one of the 31-strong New Zealand Paralympic team.

Liam Malone is one of eight para-athletes in the New Zealand team. GETTY IMAGES


Athletes have a prefix T, for track events, or F, for field events, followed by a number, with 11-13 indicating visual impairment, 20 intellectual impairment, 31-38 physical impairments that affect the trunk, arms, hands and legs, 40 and 41 athletes of short stature, 42-47 athletes with limb deficiencies, and 51-57 athletes who use wheelchairs. Lower numbers in the ranges indicate increased severity of impairment.

New Zealand's athletes are Caitlin Dore (F37), Rory McSweeney (F44), Jacob Phillips (T35), Anna Grimaldi (T47), Jessica Hamill (F34), Holly Robinson (F/T46), William Stedman (T36), and Liam Malone (T43).

Ad Feedback


There are three classes in para-canoeing, KL1, KL2, and KL3, with the numbers increasing as the severity of the athlete's impairment decreases.

New Zealand's lone athlete is Scott Martlew (KL3).

Laura Thompson and Emma Foy ride in tandem in the individual pursuit. CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ


There are four prefixes. H for those who use handcycles, T for those who use tricycles, C for those who bicycles, and B/VI for visually-impaired athletes who ride in tandem with a sighted pilot. They then have a number indicating how severely they are limited, ranging from 1-5 (most to least) for handcyclists, 1-2 for tricyclists, and 1-5 for bicyclists.

New Zealand's athletes are Amanda Cameron (B/VI), Byron Raubenheimer (C4), Fraser Sharp (C3), Emma Foy (B/VI), Stephen Hills (T2), Kate Horan (C4), and sighted pilots Laura Thompson and Hannah van Kampen.


There are seven classifications - sport classes one to seven - with those in sport class one the most severely impaired and those in seven the least. In team events, the athletes' classifications are added together to give a total points value.

New Zealand's three athletes compete together in the three-person keelboat event, where there is a total points limit of 14. They are Andrew May (SC4), Chris Sharp (SC4), and Richard Dobson (SC6).

Jason Eales is one of three para-shooters in the New Zealand team. MARK TAYLOR/FAIRFAX NZ


There are three classes - SH1 (Pistol), for athletes with upper or lower limb impairments; SH1 (Rifle), for athletes with lower limb impairment, and SH2, which is only for rifle events, and is for athletes with upper limb impairment (which requires them to use a shooting stand to support the rifle).

New Zealand's athletes are Michael Johnson (SH2C), Jason Eales (SH2C), and Greg Reid (SH1).


The prefixes are S, for freestyle, butterfly, and backstroke; SB for breaststroke; and SM for the individual medley. The numbers either range from 1-10, for physically impaired athletes; 11-13, for visually impaired athletes, again based on severity; or 14, for intellectually impaired athletes. The lower the number in the range, the more severe the impairment.

New Zealand's athletes are Jesse Reynolds (S9, SB9 and SM9)Cameron Leslie (S5, SM4); Nikita Howarth (S7, SB8 and SM7)Sophie Pascoe (S10, SB9 and SM10); Tupou Neiufi (S9, SB8, SM9)Mary Fisher (S11, SB11 and SM11); Rebecca Dubber (S7, SB6, SM7); and Hamish McClean (S6, SB6 and SM6).

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback