Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

Para Athletics

Para Athletics is track & field practiced by athletes with some type of impairment, whether it be physical or mental. Generally, physical impaired athletes compete in the Paralympics, while athletes with intellectual or developmental disabilities compete in the Special Olympics.  The Paralympics and the Special Olympics, though they both accommodate athletes with some type of impairment, are two distinct and different organizations.

Read about the difference between Paralympics and the Special Olympics.

This page and the associated pages are focused on athletes with physical impairment. Get more information about the Special Olympics in SC.

About the Different Organizations
The existence of different organizations can sometimes be confusing to those just being introduced to Para Athletics. Rest assured, they all work together and are not in competition with each other.

Adaptive Track & Field USA (ATFUSA) is specifically focused on track & field and road racing  for Para athletes. ATFUSA was the governing body of Para Athletics for about 20 years. They remain the governing body for U11, U14, Community Open, and Master age groups in the US.

In 2019 the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) became the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), and U.S. Paralympics Track & Field became the NGB (National Governing Body) for Para Track & Field Athletics in the United States.

World Para Athletics (WPA) is the international governing body of Para Athletics.

Move United is a non-profit organization that promotes para-athletes
and Para competitions across many disciplines. They are also a sanctioning body.

Para Track & Field Meet Competition Levels

Every Para Track & Field meet is assigned a competition level. There are 3 competitive levels: L1, L2, L3:


  • L1 is a fun meet, and an instructional meet
  • Meant as an introduction of Para Athletes to the sport Track & Field
  • Coaching is allowed and is indeed encouraged
  • Athletes cannot be disqualified
  • Athletes are told what they did wrong so they may learn
  • These meets are not typically sanctioned
    Results are not used or qualification or records


  • L2 meets are competitive meets
  • Are sanctioned by ATFUSA
  • Held on a legal 400M track
  • Have approved field implements
  • Utilize certified officials
  • Results may be used to qualification for Move United  National
  • WPA licensed athletes may report results to WPA
  • No national or international Records  can be achieved at L2 event


  • L3 meets are highly competitive meets
  • Are sanctioned by ATFUSA
  • Held on a legal 400M track
  • Utilize electronic timing
  • Have formally inspected (weighed and measured) field implements
  • Utilize Para Certified head officials
  • Records may be set for all age groups: Junior, Open, Master
  • WPA World and Regional records may be set if Doping testing is available during the meet.

Athlete Classes & Classification

Para Athletes compete in different classes. Athletes are classified by
impairment so that athletes are competing against similar athletes in the
same event.

According to the International Paralympic committee, an athlete competing
in Paralympic sports must be affected by at least one of 10 eligible impairments:

1. Impaired muscle power (spinal cord injury, spina bifida, polio, etc.)

  1. Impaired passive range of motion (arthrogryposis, joint fusion, etc.)
  2. Limb deficiency (amputee, congenital malformation, etc.)
  3. Leg length difference
  4. Short stature (achondroplasia, etc.)
  5. Hypertonia (cerebral palsy, stroke, traumatic brain injury)
  6. Ataxia (cerebral palsy, stroke, traumatic brain injury)
  7. Athetosis (cerebral palsy, stroke, traumatic brain injury)
  8. Visual Impairment
  9. Intellectual Impairment

Overview of Classification

  • F : Field athletes
  • T : Track athletes
  • 11–13 : Visual impairment
    Class T11 guide use is required
    Class T12 guide use is optional
  • 20 – Intellectual impairment
  • 31–38 : Movement disorders (Cerebral Palsy)
    40-41 : Short stature
  • 42–47 : Ambulatory (no prosthesis)
    Class 42-44 : lower limb
    Class 45-47 : upper limb
  • 51–57 : Wheelchair
  • 61-64 : Ambulatory (leg limb with prosthesis)

Thus, an F63 athlete would be a Field athlete using a prosthesis on one or
both legs.

(Click the Classification link to learn more)

Para Track & Field, and Road Racing Events

Track Events
Para Athletes run the same track distances as unimpaired athletes, with a few minor adjustments. Wheelchairs and racing frames are allowed. Visually impaired runners also participate, and some will utilize a guide. If a guide is utilized by a competitor, that competitor is allocated two lanes: one for the competitor and one for the guide. In lanes races, the competitor must race only in their assigned lane.

Sprint (Laned races)

  • 40m- Junior athletes only
  • 60m- Junior athletes only
  • 100m
  • 200m
  • 400m

Middle Distance

  • 800m (Laned start)
  • 1500m

Long Distance

  • 5000m
  • 10,000m

Relays (Laned races)

  • 4×100
  • 4×400
  • 4×100 Universal Event
    (combined gender, multiple classes)


Field Events


  • Shot Put
  • Discus Throw
  • Club (Class F31-32 only)
  • Javelin Throw


  • Long Jump
  • Triple Jump
  • High Jump

Road Events

  • 5k
  • 10k
  • 15k
  • Half-Marathon
  • Marathon
  • Ultra*

* Ultra events are not part of Paralympics. However, there are increasingly more para-athletes pushing themselves to do accomplish amazing things in ultra-events.

Para Athletics in South Carolina

Palmetto Games

An annual Para Athletics competition, the Palmetto Games, is held at Clemson University. This event in the Spring, is a multi-sport competition for athletes of all ages and varying skill levels.

The events include Air Rifle, Archery, Swimming, and Track & Field. In addition to the standard Track events previously mentioned, the Palmetto Games also include a 20m race and a 60m weave (a race of dexterity and agility) for certain classes.

Junior Olympics

The USATF South Carolina Association Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships has been open to wheelchair athletes for many years. Beginning in 2023, USATF launched an initiative to formally include para athletes and events in the USATF Junior Olympics. The included events are: 100m, 200m, 400m, and Shot Put.

With several Para-Certified Officials, USATFSC was on-board and integrated

those events into our Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships.