Paralympics Ireland Hosts National Classifiers Forum

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Paralympics Ireland classification team held a National Classifiers Forum on Saturday May, 10th. 19 national classifiers from across the country with a vast range of experience across a variety of Para sports gathered for the event.

Considering that each disability impacts sports differently, and as each sport requires different functional tasks, the classification system is sport-specific. Each International Federation develops its own Classification Rules & Regulations in line with the IPC Athlete Classification Code.

Classifying athletes is a cornerstone function in Para sports, yet our national classifiers often lack opportunities to convene. This forum offers a chance for these crucial individuals to gather, exchange experiences and insights, and stay updated on the latest rules and guidelines that reflect international best practices.

Medical and technical classifiers work as a classification panel for each sport. They undergo training organised by the relevant International Federation and conduct athletes’ evaluation following a robust process which includes the analysis of medical documentation, a medical and sport-specific technical assessment, observation in competition and the allocation of a sport-class and sport class status.    

As the classification process for each sport varies, classifiers Grainne Phelan, Amanda Carty, Daragh O’Brien, and Fintan O’Donnell presented the evaluation process for an individual sport, a team sport, intellectual impairment athletes and vision impairment athletes. The classifiers discussed differences and similarities among the processes for the sports they work with and shared their experiences.  

The SI Clinical Sport Psychologist talked about difficult conversations with athletes, and athletes’ support personnel, while Doctoral researcher Iain Gowans presented his research to date in International Misrepresentation in Paralympic Sport, and the key changes in the IPC Code after an extensive review. 

Paralympics Ireland Classification Manager Ana Maia said: ‘Classification is a fundamental part of Para sport. Every athlete competing in Para sport must undertake the process to confirm eligibility for the sport and to be allocated a class to compete against athletes with similar activity limitations. That way, the classification ensures fair and equitable competition. Our aim as the classification team is to support our athletes and NGBs by providing a robust national classification program where athletes are evaluated in Ireland once they enter the Para pathway to compete at national level. We also support athletes and athletes’ support personnel in advance to the international classification once they step into the performance stage of the pathway and start competing at international level. We count on a strong group of professionals including physiotherapists, sport-specific experts, psychologists, and optometrists who volunteer their time and dedicate themselves to the program. I was delighted to welcome our nearly full cohort of national classifiers last Saturday. We had a very dynamic and valuable day, learning from each other and discussing the different elements of the classification process. I would like to offer a huge thank you to everyone involved for making the forum a worthwhile experience.”

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