Note: This article describes the IFSC classification system, national systems may be different.
Impairments can be very different and so also the level of climbing. To ensure a fair competition, athletes are classified in order to compete against athletes with a similar level of impairment. In Paraclimbing, we have 10 different sport classes at the moment.
- Blind categories (B1, B2, B3)
- Amputees (AU1, AU2, AL1, AL2)
- Limited reach, power or stability (RP1, RP2, RP3)
Higher numbers equal higher functionality (less impairment), lower numbers equal lower functionality (more impairment). So that means B1 athletes are completely blind and have to climb with a blindfold, B2 athletes have a visual acuity of up to 2/60 and/or a visual field of less than 5%, B3 in between 2/60 and 6/60 visual acuity and a visual field in between 5 % and 20 %. Blind climbers have a sight guide who announces the holds and moves for the climber.
AU1 athletes only have one functioning arm, so their climbing style is one arm dynamic moves. Precise footwork and body positioning is needed to compensate for the missing arm.
AU2 has one arm with a forearm amputation or a limb deficiency so that the athlete has one arm and one stump left for climbing. Their reach is limited, the use of finger pockets and pinching is also not possible with the impaired arm.
AL1 is for athletes who use wheelchairs due to no usable function from the waist down or for double hip disarticulation amputees. Their climbing style is purely campusing as they have no use of their legs.
AL2 has at least one leg amputation or limb deficiency – no matter the length. The only minimum criteria is that there may be no ankle left. The athletes also may decide if they want to climb with a prosthesis or not. Climbing styles are very different depending on the athlete using a prosthesis or not. There is also a difference if it is a below or above knee amputation / limb deficiency because the additional joint allows specific hooking which might be helpful in steep walls.
RP athletes may have neurological or physiological impairments which can be very different. Some athletes of lower RP classes need a wheelchair while others are limited by other factors (flexibility, coordination, strength). Climbing styles are very different here and in general, in RP categories there are way more “different” types of impairment competing against each other in comparison to other categories.
Routesetting needs to be specific for each category. If you are further interested in this topic, take a look at this page about Paraclimbing routesetting.
How do athletes get classified?
Right before an official IFSC event (World Cups or World Championships), there will be medical examinations for new athletes. During this medical examination, the athletes will present their medical documentation and undergo medical checks in order to determine the sport class.
How can I compete?
Contact your national federation and ask if they have any Paraclimbing structures existing and how you can participate.
Who is not allowed to compete?
- Athletes with a visual field of more than 20 % and or a visual acuity of more than 6/60.
- Deaf or hearing impaired persons
- People with organ transplant
- Intellectual impaired athletes (for IFSC events! National events may have a different format)
In the current IFSC Rules (2019) there is no precise minimum disability criteria defined for most of the categories.
In order to have a proper competition, the IFSC has defined minimum criteria on numbers of athletes to start a category. 5 athletes from 3 different countries are needed to run a World Cup category, 6 athletes from 4 different countries to run a category at a World Championship. If less athletes apply for a category, the category is not opened and these athletes would not be allowed to compete.
Because it is better an unfair competition than no competition, the rules give the option to merge certain categories in order to allow more athletes to compete.
There are still inadequacies in the current merging schema: If B3 or RP3 does not have enough athletes, and the categories left of them in the schema exceed the minimum criteria, B3/RP3 are not opened for competition. So the problem is always on the right side of the merging schema because there is no category available to merge them to.
If we look into the statistics, it clearly shows that the concept of merging is needed even with growth over the past years: In theory, we could have 20 categories if all categories exceed the minimum criteria. The World Championship Innsbruck 2018 had 12 categories and sets of medals, the World Championship Briançon 2019 had 14 sets of medals. So there is still room for growth …
Categories which tend to have (too) low numbers of participants:
Men: AU1, AL1
Women: AU1, AU2, AL1, AL2, RP1, RP2, RP3,B1, B2, B3