Classification is the basis of all Paralympic sport. It is the process whereby athletes are put into classes so that in competition they are competing against others whose impairments have a similar influence on their performance potential. Until the 2004 summer and 2006 winter Paralympics, the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) had a policy that the classification of athletes was their personal responsibility and the responsibility of their sport program. In practical terms, this meant that athletes went to the Paralympics and other competitions with uncertain classifications which could be changed before they competed and could see them either classified out – they could not compete at all – or reclassified into a different class. This approach had unfortunate consequences over the years, such as the traumatic Games for the wheelchair rugby team in 2004 and an athlete at the FESPIC Games in 2002 being unable to compete at all. In July 2006, Jenni Cole commenced as the APC’s National Classification Manager and a program was put in place to increase the number of classifiers across all sports in Australia and to ensure that every athlete going to a Games had the most secure possible level of classification. The program was a world first.
Date: July 2006