It's a Long Way to the Top: Determinants of Developmental Pathways in Paralympic Sport

Adapt Phys Activ Q. 2021 Aug 17;1-21. doi: 10.1123/apaq.2020-0147. Online ahead of print.


The literature suggests that the current athlete development models do not reflect the multifaceted developmental pathways in Paralympic sport. This study aimed to analyze how parasport athletes progress through developmental phases of an athletic career pathway by comparing differences in their trajectories based on the nature of the impairment (acquired or congenital), age, and sex. A total of 345 para-athletes representing 15 sports completed an online survey. Results showed that the developmental phases for athletes with acquired impairment are of shorter duration, taking 4.5 years to progress from the attraction to the elite phase, while athletes with congenital impairment take 6 years. Athletes with congenital impairment start in parasport approximately 8 years younger and win medals in international competitions 7 years earlier than athletes with acquired impairment. Insights gathered in this study have the potential to enhance further thinking toward the genesis of specific models of para-athlete development.

Keywords: athletes with impairments; parasport; parasport athlete development; parasport models.