There are five disciplines in athletics. Track and field, road running, race walking, cross country running and mountain-running. There are both indoor and outdoors events.

As far as possible, events for deaf, disabled, and intellectually disabled athletes are identical to the standard versions, but some differences are inevitable. Changes and special considerations are listed below in the section Considerations and Adaptations.

There are three distance categories in track events: sprints, middle distance and long distance. Hurdles and Steeplechase have obstacles to be cleared during the race.

Track events (all distances in meters)

  • 100, 200, 400, 800, 1500, 5000, 10000
  • 110m hurdles (100m for women)
  • 400m hurdles
  • 4 * 100m relay
  • 4 * 400m relay
  • 3,000m steeplechase
  • Marathon (42.195 Km)

The field events are jumping and throwing competitions. There are four throwing categories: JavelinHammer ThrowShot Put, and Discus, and four jumping events: Long Jump and Triple JumpHigh Jump and Pole Vault.

The decathlon, for men, and the heptathlon, for women, include both track and field disciplines.

The decathlon is held over two days, and consists of ten track and field events:

Day 1:

  • 100 metres
  • Long jump
  • Shot put
  • High jump
  • 400 metres

Day 2:

  • 110 metres hurdles
  • Discus throw
  • Pole vault
  • Javelin throw
  • 1500 metres

The womens's heptathlon has seven events:

  • 100 m hurdles
  • High jump
  • Shot put
  • 200 m
  • Long jump
  • Javelin throw
  • 800 m

Considerations and Adaptations

In open international competitions like the Paralympics, age is not a consideration, except that there is usually a minimum age (often 14 years). For other arenas from school to state to national, there are usually age categories.

Paralympic athletics

Paralympics entry requires that athletes:

  • Hold an active IPC Athletics Athletes License. 
  • Have achieved a Minimum Qualification Standard (AQS/BQS) at an IPC Athletics Recognized Competition. 

These age groups are recognized by IPC Athletics: 

  • Master Men and Women: Athletes who have reached their 35th birthday.
  • Junior Men and Women: Athletes of 18 or 19 on 31-Dec of the year of the competition.
  • Youth Boys and Girls: Athletes of 16 or 17 on 31-Dec of the year of the competition.
  • Under 16 Boys and Girls: Athlete of 14 or 15 on 31-Dec of the year of the competition. 

An athlete must be 14 by 31-Dec in the competition year to compete in open events.

Paralympic sports athletes are grouped into six major categories, depending upon their type of disability:

Amputee: Athletes with a partial or total amputation of at least one limb.

Cerebral palsy: Athletes who have a non-progressive neurological disorder resulting from cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, or stroke, or similar disabilities affecting muscle control, balance or coordination.

Intellectual disability: Athletes who have a significant impairment in intellectual functioning with associated limitations in adaptive behaviour.

Les autres: French for 'the others'. This covers athletes with a mobility impairment or other loss of physical function that does not fall strictly into one of the other categories. This includes those with dwarfism, multiple sclerosis or other disabilities.

Visually impaired: Athletes who have a non-correctable vision impairment ranging from partially sighted to total blindness.

Wheelchair: Athletes with a disability that requires them to compete using a wheelchair. This covers most athletes with spinal cord injuries and other athletes who require wheelchairs, including some lower limb amputees, athletes with polio and other disabilities.

In Athletics the sport class has a prefix followed by a number: “T” for Track, "F" for Field, and "P" for Pentathlon. The class indicates the events where the sport class applies.

Sport Classes:

  • T/F 11-13: Different levels of visual impairment
  • T/F 20: Intellectual impairment
  • F 31-34: Athetosis, ataxia and/or hypertonia - wheelchair
  • T 32-34: Athetosis, ataxia and/or hypertonia - wheelchair
  • F 35-38: Athetosis, ataxia and/or hypertonia - ambulant
  • T 35-38: Athetosis, ataxia and/or hypertonia - ambulant
  • F 40-41: Short stature
  • T/F 42-46: Limb deficiencies - ambulant
  • T 51-54: Wheelchair athletes
  • F 51-58: Wheelchair athletes

For a full description of these athletic classifications in a new tab, see Paralympic Athletics Classifications.

These events are NOT included in the Paralympics: Hurdles, Steeplechase, Hammer throw, Decathlon, Heptathlon.

Instead of the Decathlon and Heptahlon, there is a Pentathlon, with 5 events, which includes the Club Throw for F51 athletes. The events competed in the Pentathlon depend upon the athlete's classification, and are shown below:

Class/esGender/sEvent 1Event 2Event 3Event 4Event 5
P11-13MLong JumpJavelin100mDiscus1500m
P11-13FLong JumpShot put100mDiscus800m
P33-34M & FShot putJavelin100mDiscus800m
P35-38MLong JumpJavelin100mDiscus1500m
P35-38FLong JumpShot put100mDiscus800m
P42M & FLong JumpShot put100mDiscus200m
P44M & FLong JumpShot put100mDiscus400m
P46MLong JumpShot put100mDiscus1500m
P46FLong JumpShot put100mDiscus800m
P51M & F100mClub400mDiscus800m
P52-53M &FShot putJavelin100mDiscus800m
P54-58M & FShot putJavelin200mDiscus1500m

Special Olympic athletics

The Official Special Olympics Sports Rules for Athletics shall govern all Special Olympics competitions. 

Those rules are based upon the  IAAF rules (International Association of Athletics Federations) for athletics. The IAAF or National Governing Body (NGB) rules should be used except where they conflict with the Official Special Olympics Sports Rules for Athletics or Article 1. In these cases, the Official Special Olympics Sports Rules for Athletics should apply.

An athlete with Down syndrome who has been diagnosed with Atlanto-axial instability may not participate in the pentathlon and high jump events. 

Divisioning at Special Olympics:

Athletes in every sport and event are grouped by age, gender, and ability. There are no World Records because each athlete in every division is valued and recognized equally. In every division, all athletes receive an award, from gold, silver, and bronze medals, to fourth through eighth place ribbons.

Official events available in Special Olympics. 

Track events (all distances in meters)

  • 25, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1500, 3000, 5000, 10000
  • 110m hurdles (100m for women)
  • 4 * 100m relay
  • 4 * 400m relay 
  • 4 * 100m Unified® Sports Relay
  • 4 * 400m Unified® Sports Relay

Field Events

  • Long Jump 
  • Standing Long Jump 
  • High Jump 
  • Softball Throw
  • Tennis Ball Throw
  • Shot Put 
  • Mini-Javelin

Combined Events


  • 100 meters
  • Long Jump
  • Shot Put
  • High Jump
  • 400 meters

Race Walking Events (all distances in meters)

  • 25, 50, 100, 400, 800

Assisted Walk Events (all distances in meters)

  • 10, 25, 50

Wheelchair Events (all distances in meters)

  • 10, 25, 100, 200, 400m Wheelchair Race 
  • 30 Meter Wheelchair Slalom 
  • 4 * 25 Meter Wheelchair Shuttle Relay 
  • 30, 50m Motorized Wheelchair Slalom 
  • 25 Meter Motorized Wheelchair Obstacle Race 
  • Wheelchair Shot Put 

Road Races

  • Half-Marathon
  • Marathon

The following rules and considerations which distinguish the Special Olympics from the standard competitions have been cherry-picked from the full list (as of 2012, available at this address).

In running events : 100m, 200m, 400m, 100m Hurdles, 110m Hurdles, 4x100m Relay, the use of starting blocks is optional.

Lane Violations 

  • In all races run in lanes, each competitor must stay within their allocated lane from start to finish. 
  • If a competitor is pushed or forced to run outside their lane, and no advantage is gained, the competitor should not be disqualified. 
  • If an athlete either runs outside their lane in the straight or runs outside the outer lane on the bend, with no advantage gained, and no other runner is obstructed, then the competitor shall not be disqualified.

Shot Put 

  • Male: 4.0 kg/ 8.8 lbs.
  • Female: 3.0 kg/ 6.6 lbs. 
  • Male (8–11 years): 3.0 kg/ 6.6 lbs. 
  • Female (8–11 years): 2kg/ 4.4 lbs. 


  • Male: 400g
  • Female: 300g
  • Male and Female (8–15 years): 300g

Wheelchair Shot Put 

  • Men 2 kg/ 4.4 lbs. 
  • Women 2 kg / 4.4 lbs. 

Hurdle Events

  • The 100 meter hurdles are 0.762m (2' 6") high, and the distance to the first hurdle is 13.00 meters. The distance between hurdles is 8.50 meters and the distance from the last hurdle to the finish line is 10.50 meters. 
  • The 110 meter hurdles are 0.840 meters (2' 9") high, and the distance to the first hurdle is 13.72 meters. The distance between hurdles is 9.14 meters, and the distance from the last hurdle to the finish line is 14.02 meters.

Long Jump 

  • In the long jump, an athlete must be able to jump at least 1 meter, the maximum distance between the take-off board and the sand pit. 

High Jump 

  • The minimum opening height for all high jump competitions is 1.00 meter. 

Softball Throw and Tennis Ball Throw 

  • Softball: softball, 30 centimeter (11 3/4 inches) in circumference. 
  • Ball Throw: a tennis ball.
  • Competitors may use any type of throw.


  • The five events comprising the pentathlon shall be run in this order: 100m run, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400m run. 
  • The pentathlon may be run over one day or over two consecutive days. In the two day format events one, two and three are run on day one, and events four and five on day two.

Deaf athletics

Deaflympics entry requires that athletes:

  • have a hearing loss of at least 55dB in the better ear (3 tone frequency average of 500, 1,000 and 2,000 Hertz, ANSI 1969 standard);
  • be a citizen of a nation member of the ICSD; and
  • not using hearing aids or external cochlear implant aids during any Deaflympics event.

For the Sofia Deaflympics held in 2013, the following age restrictions apply:

Junior Athletes

Any athlete born in 1994 or 1995 may compete in any event except the Marathon.

Youth Athletes

Any athlete born in 1996 or 1997 may compete in any event except the throwing events (male athletes), Decathlon, 10,000m and the Marathon.

Athletes Younger Than 16

Any athlete born in 1998 or later may not be entered.

In competitions for deaf athletes, the referees wave a hand or a flag or use a light to signal when the starting gun goes off or to control the athletes. It is also customary for spectators not to cheer or clap, but rather to wave – usually with both hands.

Athletes gain many health benefits from the sport.  They develop physical abilities. Their bodies are in better shape, with increased muscle mass, stamina, speed, lung capacity and elasticity. Being healthier means fewer injuries and illnesses. The athlete benefits socially as well, as new people and places are encountered. Character development occurs and a competitive spirit is engendered.

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Creative Commons licence text.

This work is partially a derived from the following resources:
    Wikipedia page Paralympic sports.
    Special Olympics Athletics 2012 rules.

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