Paralympic Winter Sport Classifications

Paralympic Winter Sport Classifications are set by IPCAS (International Paralympic Committee Alpine Skiing). Alpine races have 3 categories for each gender, Visually Impaired, Standing and Sitting. 

There are different classifications within the three categories. A full description can be found in the IPC Alpine Skiing Classification Handbook.

Visually impaired athletes must ski with guides who are fully licensed athletes and subject to the IPC Alpine Skiing Rules and Regulation Books.

The classes listed below are current as of July, 2013. Full and current classifications and regulations may be found on the website of the Paralympic Movement.


Alpine Skiing Classification

Sport Classes LW 1-9: Standing Skiers

Skiers with leg impairments:

Sport Class LW 1: This sport class is allocated to athletes with an impairment that strongly affects both legs, for example an above knee amputation of both legs or significant muscle weakness in both legs.

Sport Class LW 2: Skiers have a significant impairment in one leg. Some skiers, for example, have an impaired leg from birth. You will see them ski with one ski only.

Sport Class LW 3: This sport class is for athletes who have a moderate impairment in both legs. They will ski with two skis and prosthesis. Some LW 3 skiers have mild coordination problems or muscle weakness in both legs, or a below knee amputation in both legs.

Sport Class LW 4: Similar to skiers in Sport Class LW 2, LW 4 skiers have an impairment in one leg only, but with less Activity Limitation. A typical example is a below knee amputation in one leg. They will use two skis during the race.

Skiers with arm impairments:

Sport Class LW 5/7: Athletes in this sport class ski with an impairment in both arms. Some athletes have amputations and others have limited muscle power or coordination problems. They will race down the slopes without ski poles.

Sport Class LW 6/8: Skiers have an impairment in one arm. Skiers will compete with one ski pole only.

Skiers with combined arm and leg impairments:

Sport Class LW 9: Skiers in this Sport Class have an impairment that affects arms and legs. Some skiers in this class have coordination problems, such as spasticity or some loss of control over one side of their body. Depending on their abilities, they will ski with one or two skis and one or two poles.

Sport Classes LW 10-12: Sit-Skiers

All sit-skiers have an impairment affecting their legs. They are allocated different sport classes depending on their sitting balance, which is very important for acceleration and balancing during the races.

Sport Class LW 10: Skiers in this sport class have no or minimal trunk stability, for example due to spinal cord injuries or spina bifida. They therefore rely mainly on their arms to manoeuvre the sit-ski.

Sport Class LW 11: Skiers have good abilities in their upper trunk, but very limited control in their lower trunk and hips, as it would be the case for skiers with lower spinal cord injuries.

Sport Class LW 12: This sport class includes skiers with normal or only slightly decreased trunk function and leg impairments. Skiers with leg impairments in Sport Classes LW 1-4 often also fit this sport class, so that they can choose if they want to ski sitting or standing in the beginning of their career.

Sport Classes B1-3: Skiers with visual impairment

Sport Class B1: Skiers in this sport class are either blind or have very low visual acuity. By way of explanation, their level of visual acuity is such that the athlete cannot recognize the letter “E” (15x15cm in size) from a distance of 25cm. During the race they are required to wear eyeshades.

Sport Class B2: This sport class profile includes athletes with a higher visual acuity than athletes competing in the B1 class, but they are unable to recognize the letter “E” from a distance of 4m. Moreover, athletes with a visual field of less than 10 degrees diameter are eligible for this sport class.

Sport Class B3: The B3 sport class profile describes the least severe visual impairment eligible for Alpine Skiing. Eligible athletes either have a restricted visual field of less than 40 degrees diameter or a low visual acuity.

In IPC Alpine Skiing, you will see athletes with visual impairment skiing with a guide. The guide skis in front of the athlete and verbally gives directions to the athlete.

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Nordic Skiing Classification / Biathlon

Skiers in Cross-Country and Biathlon compete in several different sport classes, depending on the activity limitation that their impairment causes.

Sport Classes LW 2-9: Standing Skiers

Skiers with leg impairments:

Sport Class LW 2: The skiers have an impairment affecting one leg, for example an amputation above the knee. They will use a prosthesis and ski with two skis.

Sport Class LW 3: This sport class includes skiers with an impairment in both legs, such as muscle weakness in both legs.

Sport Class LW 4: Skiers in this sport class include those with impairments in the lower parts of one leg, but with less impact on skiing compared to LW 2. Typical examples are amputations above the ankle or loss of muscle control in one leg.

Skiers with arm impairments:

Sport Class LW 5/7: This sport class is designated for athletes with impairments in both arms that prohibit them to use ski poles. Skiers, for example, have no hands or cannot grip firmly. Therefore, you will see them skiing without poles.

Sport Class LW 6: Athletes competing in the LW 6 sport class have a significant impairment in one arm, for example a missing arm above the elbow. The impaired arm is fixed to their body and may not be used during the races. With the other hand they will use a ski pole.

Sport Class LW 8: Skiers in this sport class have moderate impairments affecting one arm. Athletes, for example, cannot flex the elbow or fingers on one side or they have a below elbow amputation. They will use one ski pole only.

Skiers with combined impairments in arms and legs:

Sport Class LW 9: This sport class is designed for skiers who have an impairment in arms and legs. Some of the LW9 skiers have mild coordination problems in all extremities. Others have amputations affecting at one arm and one leg. Depending on their abilities, they will ski with one or two ski poles.

Sport Classes LW 10-12: Sit-Skiers

All sit-skiers have an impairment affecting their legs. They are allocated different sport classes depending on their trunk control, which is very important for acceleration and balancing during the races.

Sport Class LW 10: Skiers have an impairment that limits their leg and trunk function. They would be unable to sit without supporting himself or herself with the arms, for example due to paraplegia.

Sport Class LW 10.5: Skiers in this sport class also have limited trunk control, but they can keep their sitting balance when not moving sideways.

Sport Class LW 11: Skiers have a leg impairment and fair trunk control, which enables them to balance even when moving sideways.

Sport Class LW 11.5: Skiers in this sport class have near to normal trunk control.

Sport Class LW 12: Skiers in this sport class have impairments similar to those described for the sport classes LW 2-4: They have a leg impairment, but normal trunk control. They are eligible to compete standing or sitting and can chose their preferred way of skiing at their first Classification.

Sport Classes B1-3: Skiers with visual impairment

Sport Class B1: Skiers in this sport class are either blind or have very low visual acuity. By way of explanation, their level of visual acuity is such that the athlete cannot recognize the letter “E” (15x15cm in size) from a distance of 25cm. During the race they wear eyeshades.

Sport Class B2: This sport class profile includes athletes with a higher visual acuity than athletes competing in the B1 class, but they are unable to recognize the letter “E” from a distance of 4m. Moreover, athletes with a visual field of less than 10 degrees diameter are eligible for this sport class.

Sport Class B3: The B3 sport class profile describes the least severe visual impairment eligible for Nordic Skiing. Eligible athletes either have a restricted visual field of less than 40 degrees diameter or a low visual acuity.

For B1 skiers a guide is obligatory and B2 and B3 skiers may choose to ski with a guide. The guide skis immediately ahead of the athlete and verbally informs the athlete of course specifics such as corners, inclines, and declines. In Biathlon, athletes with visual impairment shoot at the target by following sound signals.

The Percentage System in Nordic Skiing

The percentage-system is an adjusted time formula, which is used to determine overall place of each competitor relative to all other racers. This formula assigns a percentage to each competitor based on each individual's particular race class. The athlete’s actual time is multiplied by this percentage to determine his/her adjusted finishing time. Each class has different percentage for the different techniques, classic and free technique. The percentages will be evaluated after every season and changes will be done if necessary. This will be done by the IPNSC.

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Para-Snowboard

Paralympic Snowboard currently offers two sport classes, one for athletes with leg impairments and one for athletes with arm impairments. The sport is under development and with its growth the classification system will be refined gradually.

Sport Class SB LL: Snowboarders in this sport class have leg impairments, such as amputations above the ankle, stiffness of ankle or knee joint or muscle weakness. Athletes with amputations will use prosthesis during the races.

Sport Class SB UL: Snowboarders in the have impairments of the upper limbs, which impacts on the ability to balance when racing down the slopes.

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Ice Sledge Hockey

There is only one sport class. Athletes have to have an impairment in the lower part of their body that would prevent them from competing in able-bodies Ice Hockey. Players, for example, have amputations affecting their legs, stiffness of the ankle or knee joint, or a leg length difference of at least 7cm. Some players also have muscle weakness in their legs, for example due to Paraplegia.

All players of a team must meet the impairment criteria to compete in Ice Sledge Hockey, so that the impact of impairment on the competition outcome is minimized.

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Wheelchair Curling

Only curlers with lower limb mobility problems are allowed to compete.

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