1. Only three Paralympic sports have no Olympic counterpart. They are goalball (a cross between dodgeball and soccer that features a ball with a bell inside, for visually impaired athletes), wheelchair rugby (also called “quad rugby,” for athletes with impairments in all four limbs) and boccia (for athletes with neuromuscular impairments).
2. Visually impaired athletes compete with sighted guides in some events. In skiing, a sighted guide skis ahead of the athlete, communicating information about the course through a two-way radio. In track racing, guide and athlete are tethered at the wrist, but again, the athlete must always be in the lead during the race. Each athlete and guide pair is considered as a team, with both eligible for medals.
3. In 1904, German-American gymnast George Eyser, who had a wooden leg, was the first athlete with a disability to compete in the Olympic Games. He earned six medals in one day. More recently, in 2012 runner Oscar Pistorius of South Africa, whose legs were amputated below the knees, competed in the Olympics, in the 4-by-400-meter relay and the men’s 400-meter race.
4. The Paralympic games is under the direction of the International Paralympic Committee. The motto of the Paralympics is “Spirit in Motion.”
5. The Winter Paralympics in Sochi were the first Paralympic Games to feature snowboarding.
6. American swimmer Trischa Zorn is the most decorated Paralympian. She has won 55 medals, 41 of them gold.
7. The symbol of the Paralympic Games is composed of three swooshes. Each is known as an agito, the Latin for “I move.” There is a red agito, a blue one and a green one, because those are the colors most common on the flags of nations. The three agitos circle a central point, symbolizing athletes coming together from all over the globe.
8. Paralympic medals feature text in the host country’s language, English and Braille.
» Australian Paralympic Committee Paralympic Education Program. “History of the Games.” http://www.paralympiceducation.org.au/primary/history-games
» Canada.com. “How Paralympic Competitions Differ From Their Olympic Counterparts.” http://www.canada.com/olympics/paralympics/how-paralympic-competitions-differ-from-their-olympic-counterparts
» Girard, Daniel. “Visually Impaired Skiers Put Fate in Guide’s Hands.” Toronto Star, March 13, 2010. http://www.thestar.com/sports/olympics/2010/03/13/visually_impaired_skiers_put_fate_in_guides_hands.html
» Parentdish. “20 Fascinating Facts About the Paralympics.” http://www.parentdish.co.uk/fun-and-activities/20-fascinating-facts-about-the-paralympics/
» The Takeaway with John Hockenberry. “For the First Time Ever, Snowboarding Hits the Slopes at the Paralympics.” http://www.thetakeaway.org/story/inside-paralympics-snowboarding/
» “10 Fun Facts About the Paralympics!” http://wellcommons.com/groups/independence-inc/2012/aug/14/10-fun-facts-about-the-paralympics/