Two Paralympic athletes, who were told by the Paralympic Committee that they were essentially too disabled to compete in the race they wanted, yesterday beat the rest of the athletes as they earned medals in the competition.
Athletes in the Paralympic games are classified by their level of impairment.
Cécile Hernandez of France, who has multiple sclerosis, and Breana Huckaby of the US, who had her right leg amputated as a teenager, were both left devastated when the IPC cancelled their SB-LL1 snowboard race.
An SB-LL1 racer has significant impairment in one leg, like an above-the-knee amputation, or significant combined impairments in two legs. But there were not enough qualified LL1 snowboarders to make the race viable, and the I.P.C. shut it down citing a lack of participants.
Both athletes instead asked to be allowed to participate in a race either with similarly disabled men; or women with less levels of impairment but their request was shot down.
The decision was challenged in court with the lawyer arguing that classification systems of any kind in all sports are designed to “protect the weak against the strong,” not the other way around.
He argued that no one would want an 18-year-old playing in an under-12 league. But if a highly talented 12-year-old could compete evenly with 18-year-olds, it would be allowed.
The duo were eventually allowed to compete and, finished 1st and 3rd with one of the less impaired athletes who supported their bid taking the silver medal.