Team SA’s Ntando Mahlangu broke the world record in the men’s T61 long-jump class at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics on Saturday night, but until he broke it a second time with a 7.17m leap he was in the bronze- medal position. How does that work? Here we explain the differences in classes.
According to paralympic.org: “T61-64 (Lower limb/s competing with prosthesis affected by limb deficiency and leg length difference)”
South Africa’s Ntando Mahlango competed as a T61 athlete in the men’s long-jump (T63) final. There were seven T63 athletes and three T61 athletes. What is the difference between the two classes?
Mahlangu (T61) is a double amputee above the knee and competes with two protheses. The T63 athletes, like German Leon Schaeffer, means they are a single amputee who use one prothetic.
Would T63 athletes have an advantage over a T61 in the long jump?
Theoretically, yes, but it’s not always the case.
Why do athletes from different categories compete against one another?
It’s a numbers game. There’s a limit to the number of medal events that can be staged at the Paralympics. Organisers make their determination on the number of athletes competing in specific events in each class, based on qualifying.
There is a T63 men’s long-jump final and a T64 men’s long-jump final. Mahlangu is a T61 athlete. Why is there no T61 men’s long-jump event?
Same as above. There aren’t enough T61 men’s long jumpers who have qualified to have a separate competition.
Will he compete in the T64 men’s long-jump event as well, and would it be against the same athletes who were in the men’s T63 final?
No. Athletes have to choose which event in a specific discipline they have qualified (eg 100m, long jump etc) and enter on that basis of meeting qualification rules. An athlete can’t, for example, compete in both the T63 and T64 long jump and contest for a medal in both events, or in two 100m events or two 200m events, etc.
Is it fair to say then that the higher the number classification in the same event, the better chance that athlete has?
Theoretically, again yes. However, that doesn’t mean an athlete in a lower class can beat an athlete in a higher class. In some events, for example, the change in class can be a few centimetres difference in terms of where an arm has been amputated, eg slightly above an elbow and slightly below an elbow.
In athletics, the sport class consists of a prefix ‘T’ or ‘F’ and a number. The prefix T stands for ‘track’, marathon and jumping events, and F stands for ‘field’. It indicates for which events the sport class applies, either for track/jump/marathon or for field events. Classes are divided in terms of type (indicated by the first digit) and level of impairment. In general, the lower the second digit, the higher the level of impairment.
T/F11, T/F12 and T/F13 are for vision-impaired athletes.
T/F20 is for athletes with an intellectual impairment.
T/F30 classes are for athletes with coordination impairment (involuntary movements, uncoordinated movements and/or muscle tension) often due to cerebral palsy or brain injury.
Classes T/F31, T/F32, T/F33 and T/F34 are for athletes competing in a wheelchair.
Classes T/F35, T/F36, T/F37 and T/F38 are for athletes competing in standing position.
T/F40 and T/F41 are for athletes of short stature.
T/F42, T/F43 and T/F44 are for athletes with a leg deficiency, leg- length difference, impaired muscle power or impaired passive range of movement in the legs, with athletes competing in a standing position.
T/F45, T/F46 and T/F47 are for athletes with arm deficiency, impaired muscle power or impaired passive range of movement in arms, with athletes competing in a standing position.
T/F51, T/F52, T/F53, T/F54, T/F55, T/F56 and T/F57 are for athletes with impaired muscle power, restricted range of movement, limb deficiency or leg-length difference, with athletes competing in seated position, eg with cervical cord injury, spinal cord injury, amputation, functional disorder.
T/F61, T/F62, T/F63 and T/F64 are for athletes with a leg amputation, who compete with prosthetics in a standing position.