It's a Long Way to the Top: Determinants of Developmental Pathways in Paralympic Sport

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The literature suggests that the current athlete development models do not reflect the multifaceted developmental pathways in Paralympic sport. This study aimed to analyse how Para sport athletes progress through developmental phases of an athletic career pathway by comparing differences in their trajectories based on the nature of the impairment (acquired [AI] or congenital [CI]), age, and sex. A total of 345 Para athletes representing 15 sports completed an online survey. Results showed that the developmental phases for athletes with AI are of shorter duration, taking 4.5 years to progress from the attraction to the elite phase while athletes with CI take six years. Athletes with CI start in Para sport approximately eight years younger and win medals in international competitions seven years earlier than athletes with AI. Insights gathered in this study have the potential to enhance further thinking towards the genesis of specific models of Para athlete development.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAdapted Physical Activity Quarterly
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021


  • Para sport
  • athletes with impairments
  • Para sport athlete development
  • Para sport models
  • Paralympics


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