As the Paralympic Games kick off this week in London, it marks the first time in 12 years that individuals with intellectual disabilities will be allowed to compete.
The international games for people with disabilities welcomed those with cognitive differences for the first time back in 1996. But just four years later, it was discovered that a basketball team from Spain which won gold in the 2000 games was largely comprised of impostors.
Subsequently, people with intellectual disabilities were barred from the Paralympics while officials worked to establish a system to reliably assess eligibility.
Now, athletes with intellectual disabilities will face off over the next week in the pool, on the table tennis court and in a handful of track and field events. To be eligible for competition this year, they had to undergo psychological assessments and a series of sport-specific tests.
The return of athletes with intellectual disabilities is bittersweet for competitors like Jeffrey Ige of Sweden, who planned to go to the Athens games in 2004 before learning he would be disqualified.
“I was at my highest level then, I could have taken a medal if I’d had a chance to compete. I was really sad and upset,” he told the BBC. To read more click here.