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Introduction

The Paralympics is a major international multi-sport event involving athletes with a range of disabilities, including impaired muscle power (e.g. paraplegia and quadriplegia, muscular dystrophy, post-polio syndrome, spina bifida), impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency (e.g. amputation or dysmelia), leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis, vision impairment and intellectual impairment. There are Winter and Summer Paralympic Games, which since the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea, are held almost immediately following the respective Olympic Games. All Paralympic Games are governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

The Paralympics has grown from a small gathering of British World War II veterans in 1948 to become one of the largest international sporting events by the early 21st century. The Paralympics has grown from 400 athletes with a disability from 23 countries in 1960 to thousands of competitors from over 100 countries in the London 2012 Games. Paralympians strive for equal treatment with non-disabled Olympic athletes, but there is a large funding gap between Olympic and Paralympic athletes.


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Flag of the United States

The United States competed at the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, China. A total of 213 U.S. competitors took part in 18 sports; the only 2 sports Americans did not compete in were soccer 5-a-side and 7-a-side. The American delegation included 16 former members of the U.S. military, including 3 veterans of the Iraq War. Among them were shot putter Scott Winkler, who was paralyzed in an accident in Iraq, and swimmer Melissa Stockwell, a former United States Army officer who lost her left leg to a roadside bomb in the war.

The United States finished third in the gold and overall medal count, behind host nation China and Great Britain. The finish was an improvement from the 2004 Paralympics, where the U.S. finished fourth in the gold and overall medal count. The U.S. saw significant gains in Paralympic swimming, winning 17 gold medals and 44 total medals, 9 more than they took home from Athens. U.S. swimmers set a total of 16 world records, 23 Paralympic records, 48 Pan American records and 99 American records. U.S. coverage of the Games was provided by the Universal Sports Television Network and the official website of the U.S. Paralympic Team, usparalympics.org.

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Yip (far right) with her Paralympic teammates at a celebration on 20 September 2008

Yip Pin Xiu (Chinese: 叶品秀; pinyin: Yè Pǐnxìu), born 1992) is a Singaporean backstroke swimmer. She has muscular dystrophy and competes in the S3 category for the physically impaired. Since 2005, she has won medals in international competitions such as the World Wheelchair and Amputee Games, Japan Paralympic Swimming Championships and International German Paralympic Swimming Championships. At the 2008 Summer Paralympics, she won a gold medal in the 50 metres backstroke and a silver medal in the 50 metres freestyle, setting world records in both events. Hence she was conferred a state medal, the Meritorious Service Medal. Her achievements contributed to public debate about the treatment and recognition of disabled athletes in Singapore.

Image credit: melandering

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