The world's first sporting event for athletes with a disability was held in 1948 at England Stoke Mandeville Hospital for spinal injuries. With the addition of other countries and disability groups, the competition became the Paralympic games. As the event is now held at the same venue with, and immediately after, the Olympic Games, the word Paralympic has come to mean "Parallel Olympics".
The International Paralympic Committee is the governing body of sports for people with a disability. It coordinates and supervises the organisation of the Olympic games.
Athletics, the largest paralympic sport, includes running, jumping, the discus, shot-put and javelin.
Competitors in track and field events represent all of the disability classes. Other sport events are open only to specific disability categories. Basketball, tennis and rugby are open to competitors in wheelchairs while five-a-side football is played by the blind.
Athletes are classified first according to the nature of their disability, then according to its severity.
The just concluded 2004 Paralympics in Athens attracted 4,000 athletes from 140 nations, 17 countries more than those that took part in the 2000 Sydney paralympics.
Phil Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee, told the athletes during the opening ceremony in Athens that "the essence of the Paralympic spirit is a Greek heritage expressed in just two words, 'Kalos' and 'Kagathos' – harmony and excellence, paired with nobility and ability. All of you here prove everyday that you are all of these things."
Kenya fielded 16 athletes who brought home a haul of seven medals from Greece. The team was placed 32nd overall. The medals comprised three gold, one silver and three bronze. Blind athlete Henry Wanyoike was the hero of the Kenyan team as he won two gold, in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres.
Wanyoike broke the world 10,000 metres record, finishing in a time of 33:33:1, which was 57 seconds ahead of the previous record. He was in class T11 for the totally blind.
Joseph Ngorialuk, who was running in class T13 for the partially blind, won the third gold in 5,000 metres.
The bronze medallists were Emmanuel Asinikal in 5,000 metres and 1,500 metres in the T13 class, and Francis Thuo in 5,000 metres (T11). Julius Chepkopus won a silver medal in the 1,500 metres T12 class.
During the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, Kenya won four medals. Wanyoike won gold in 5,000 metres, Evelyne Khatsembula won bronze in 100 metres, and Mary Nakhumicha won silver in javelin and bronze in shot-put. Kenya, with a squad of 14 athletes, was placed 46th overall in Sydney.