While many of the world’s most famous athletes are gearing up for the Beijing Olympics in August, there are other athletes training every bit as hard for a second Olympic games in September.
The 14th Paralympic Games will see disabled athletes from around the world compete in 20 events ranging from wheelchair fencing to powerlifting.
The Paralympic movement began at a British hospital in the aftermath of the Second World War, when sport was introduced as a therapeutic treatment for returning servicemen with spinal injuries.
The first games took place in 1948 in London with two British teams competing in an archery competition. By 1960 the games had grown to include international athletes and were held in the same city as the Olympic Games.
It is unclear where the name Paralympics came from but it was probably first coined as a pun or ‘portmanteau’ word combining the words paraplegic and Olympic. These days, however, the term ‘para’ is seen to signify a parallel competition that sits side by side with the main Olympic Games.
As well as athletes who have suffered spinal injuries, the modern Paralympics invites competitors with visual impairment, athletes with cerebral palsy, and amputees to participate in the games.
Although most of the Paralympic sports are also included in the Olympic Games, there are some sports that are unique to the Paralympics.
Boccia is a game similar to bowls in which the competitor attempts to throw a number of leather balls as closely as possible to a target ball; the wheelchair dance event sees athletes perform dance routines with each other or with able-bodied partners.
So if you are a sports fan, remember that when the Olympic Games have finished, the Paralympics are just about to begin.