A Quick Guide to the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

Prepare to be inspired by the Tokyo Paralympics.

The 2020 Tokyo Paralympics are here, and the Philippine delegation is already preparing for their upcoming heats and events. Every Olympic event is followed by the Paralympics to highlight the inspirational stories and triumphs of the persons with disabilities in our communities.

Inspired by the feats of Olympic medalists Hidilyn Diaz, Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam, and Eumir Marcial, the five Filipino Paralympians hope to mirror the success of their Olympic counterparts. With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know to about the two-week-long Paralympic Games. 

The Paralympic medals

Photo by Tokyo Paralympics.

When did the Paralympics begin?

The Summer Olympics began way back in 1896, but the first Paralympics wouldn’t take place until half a century later. Nowadays, all Winter and Summer Olympics are followed by the Winter and Summit Paralympics about two weeks later. However, the first Paralympics began as a casual gathering for disabled war veterans who survived World War II. The first few editions of these games were called the Stoke Mandeville Games before they became the Paralympic Games. 


What does 'Paralympic' mean?

The first games was organized with the paraplegic British war veterans in mind. All the war vets who participated in the first Stoke Mandeville Games had spine injuries, and it wasn’t until a few years later that people with other forms of disabilities and impairments joined the games. Eventually, the origin story of Stoke Mandeville Games combined with the name of the Olympics to form the Paralympics and pay homage to the event’s past. 

How do the categories work?

The categories of the Paralympics are more complicated than the Olympics. In the Olympics, athletes are grouped based on gender and weight class. These apply in the Paralympics, only the organizers must also take into consideration the range of impairments and disabilities among the athletes.

As such, the Paralympic Games has come up with a classification system that groups athletes in sport classes based on their limitations so everyone is given a fair shot. For example, archers are divided into only two classes: W1 for those in wheelchairs who have impairments in all four limbs, and Open for those in wheelchairs with normal function in their two arms. Meanwhile, track and field has one of the most complicated systems with up to 64 classifications depending on whether you’re a wheelchair user, are visually impaired, or have cerebral palsy. 

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Classifications differ by sport, but all generally welcome every impairment or disability as the games aim to be as inclusive as possible. Eligible impairments to enter the games are muscle power impairment, passive movement range impairment, limb deficiency, leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia (muscle tension), ataxia (uncoordinated movements), athetosis (involuntary movements), vision impairment, and intellectual impairment. 

How do I watch the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics? 

Lucky for us, the Paralympics will be streamed for free on the Paralympics website and YouTube. You can also watch it on and

Who will be competing in the Paralympics?

Five Filipino Olympians will be vying for a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. They are Ernie Gawilan and Gary Bejino in swimming, Jerrold Mangliwan and Achelle Guion in athletics, and Allain Ganapin in taekwondo. 


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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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