Here’s what the 'para' part of Paralympics means and why everyone gets it wrong

Dylan Alcott.

Many think the ‘para’ part of Paralympics means paraplegic or paralysed, but they would be wrong.

Speaking at TedX Sydney today Dylan Alcott, a Paralympic gold medalist explained the word Paralympic is actually just two words smashed together with ‘para’ meaning parallel and the ‘lympics’ bit just meaning Olympics.

“It actually represents the word parallel, meaning the Paralympics runs in parallel, or alongside, the Olympics. Every four years in the same venue with the same elite sports, with the same elite sports stars competing,” he said. “The only difference is that at the Paralympics everyone has a disability and is heaps better looking.”


Alcott was born with a tumour wrapped around his spine which left him a paraplegic but, discussing his life, said things like supporting an English cricket team and/or wearing Crocs are worse than being in a wheelchair.

He’s an accomplished sportsman, winning a gold medal for Australia in wheelchair basketball at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic games. He is also a tennis grand slam champion and world record holder for wheelchair tennis.

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