The Paralympics are often seen as the little brother of the Olympics and given the number of participants they certainly are. While nearly 11,500 athletes competed in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, the Paralympic Games have approximately 4,500 participants.
However, given the number of medal-winning events and also the speed of some races, the Paralympics easily surpass the Olympics.
Due to the different skill classifications, encompassing the visually impaired, amputees, wheelchair users and others, this year’s Paralympic Games actually had 539 medal-winning events in 22 sports, while the Tokyo Olympics saw huge numbers of medals. competitions in 33 sports and 339 medal-winning events.
The longer the distance of sports races, the faster Paralympic athletes are against Olympic athletes, especially those in the T53 and T54 wheelchair categories which are designed for athletes with limited torso and legs. In the men’s 400m race, the world track and field record stood at 43.03 seconds, with the Paralympic runners behind by a few milliseconds. In the 800m race, wheelchair runners have already surpassed the athletics world record by around 1 minute and 41 seconds. American Paralympian Daniel Romanchuk holds the world record for para-athletics over the distance with one minute and about 30 seconds.
With increasing distance, the advance of Paralympic wheelchair runners increases. In the women’s marathon, for example, the T53 / 54 record is around one hour and 36 minutes, held by the Swiss Manuela Schaer. That’s 38 minutes faster than the athletics world record.
In swimming, para-athletes have failed to break world records in athletics, but they are also getting close enough. The men’s 100m butterfly world record is held by American swimmer and Tokyo gold medalist Caeleb Dressel with 49.45 seconds. Para-athletics record holder Ihar Boki of Belarus swam the distance in 53.72 seconds, about 4 seconds shorter. Boki swims in the visually impaired category, but some para swimming records are also held by athletes with physical disabilities.
When it comes to gender balance, this year’s Summer Olympics was more even than the Tokyo Paralympics.