Sam Kavanagh on bike

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The Paralympic movement

Deloitte is proud to sponsor Team USA

For more than 50 years, the Paralympic Games have served as the pinnacle of international competition for athletes with physical, visual, or intellectual disabilities.

The founding of the Paralympic Movement

An estimated 57 million Americans have a communicative, mental, or physical disability, including veterans and military personnel who sustained serious injuries while on active duty. Despite these obstacles, many of these individuals choose to participate in adaptive sports, which are becoming increasingly available as both leisure and competitive activities across the country.

Sport for athletes with an impairment has existed for more than 100 years; the first sport clubs for the deaf existed as early as 1888. But it was not until after World War II, when military veterans returned from war determined to stay active despite suffering body-altering injuries, that opportunities to participate in adaptive sports became more widely available.

In 1948, a British doctor named Ludwig Guttmann recognized the desire among these veterans to continue to compete athletically regardless of their injuries. Guttmann thus organized a competition for WWII veterans with spinal-cord injuries in Stoke Mandeville, England, on the same day as the Opening Ceremony of the London 1948 Olympic Games. Four years later, competitors from Holland joined Guttmann's competition, and the Paralympic Movement was born.

Dr. Guttmann's creation, dubbed the International Stoke Mandeville Games, was the foundation of the first Paralympic Games, held in Rome in 1960, featuring 400 athletes from 23 countries. The first Paralympic Winter Games were held 16 years later in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. Since the Seoul 1988 Games, the Paralympics have taken place at the same venues as the Olympic Games.

In recent years, awareness of the Paralympic Games has grown exponentially. The London 2012 Paralympic Games received just over 5 hours of television coverage, but the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games received 50 hours of coverage and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games garnered 66 hours of coverage.

The number of Paralympic sports has also grown significantly, from 8 sports in 1960 to 22 sports at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, which included the debut of paratriathlon and paracanoe.

By definition, Paralympians have an impairment that results in a competitive disadvantage. At first, the Paralympic Games were open only to athletes with spinal-cord injuries. Today athletes with physical, visual, and intellectual impairments may compete in the Paralympic Games. Each athlete is assigned a sport classification based on how much the athlete's impairment affects his or her ability to compete in a given sport. To learn more about athlete classifications, visit the United States Olympic Committee's Paralympic interactive, sponsored by Deloitte.

In practice, the Paralympics have shown us that any individual can compete at the most elite level of sport. Paralympic athletes, like their Olympic counterparts, are heroic in their determination and drive to test the capabilities of the human body in sport.

April Holmes walking on a track

Did you know?

The word "Paralympic" is an amalgamation of the Greek preposition "para" (beside or alongside) and the word "Olympic." It's meant to assert that the Paralympic Games are the parallel to the Olympic Games and illustrates how the two movements exist side by side.

Meet the athletes

Rico Roman

While serving in Iraq, a bomb explosion left Rico Roman critically injured. In 2008, when the pain became unbearable, Rico decided to have his left leg amputated. Once accustomed to using his prosthetic, the retired US Army Sergeant started playing sled hockey and found the team’s solidarity uplifting. Soon, Rico was playing competitively, making his way to the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014; now he’s a seasoned professional returning to the Olympic Winter Games to proudly serve his country and help Team USA defend their title.

Rico Roman

Danelle Umstead

Paralympian skier Danelle Umstead is a three-time women’s world cup overall champion in the visually impaired category. A lion-hearted Danelle, with her husband Rob’s direction, plans on switching from alpine to downhill at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, in their third consecutive trip to the Olympic Winter Games. Perhaps the change will have a positive impact and lead to the couple’s first-ever Olympic gold medal. They have three bronzes, one from the Olympic Winter Games Vancouver and two from Olympic Winter Games Sochi.

Danelle Umstead

Deloitte Team sponsorships

Deloitte is proud to be the sponsor of the following Paralympic sport teams:

US Para dressage rider Annie Peavy

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