The Paralympics are often thought of as the Olympics’ smaller sibling and considering the number of participants they certainly are. While almost 11,500 athletes competed in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games, the Paralympics have around 4,500 participants.
However, considering the number of medal events and also the speed of some races, the Paralympics surpass the Olympics easily.
Because of the different ability classifications, encompassing the visually impaired, amputees, wheelchair users and others, this year’s Paralympics actually have 539 medal events in 22 sports, while the Tokyo Olympic Games saw competitions in 33 sports and 339 medal events.
The longer the distance of athletic races is, the faster Paralympic athletes are opposite Olympic athletes, especially those of the T53 and T54 wheelchair categories which are designed for athletes with limited function in their torsos and legs. In the men’s 400m race, the World Athletics record stands at 43.03 seconds, having Paralympic racers trail behind by some milliseconds. In the 800m race, wheelchair racers have already overtaken the World Athletics record time of 1 minute and around 41 seconds. U.S. Paralympian Daniel Romanchuk holds the Para Athletics world record over the distance with one minute and around 30 seconds.
With increasing distance, the headway of Paralympic wheelchair racers increases. In the women’s marathon, for example, the T53/54 record stands at around one hour and 36 minutes, held by Swiss national Manuela Schaer. That is 38 minutes faster than the World Athletics record.
In swimming, para athletes have not been able to break World Athletics records, but they also come pretty close. The men’s world record over 100m butterfly is held by U.S. swimmer and Tokyo gold medalist Caeleb Dressel with 49.45 seconds. Para Athletics record holder Ihar Boki from Belarus swam the distance in 53.72 seconds – just around 4 seconds slower. Boki swims in the visually impaired category, but some para swimming records are also held by physically impaired athletes.
When it comes to gender balance, this year's Summer Olympics were more equal than the Tokyo Paralympics.