Athletes with a disability and the Olympic Games

The following is a collection of athletes with disabilities who have competed at the Olympic Games or Olympians who have become disabled and then competed at the Paralympic Games. It is probably not a complete list so feel free to add to it. It also includes a list of deaf/ hearing impaired athletes who have competed at the Olympic Games.

Athletes with a disability who have competed at the Olympic Games only

George Eyser (USA) (Gymnastics – 1904)

American gymnast George Eyser, who had a wooden leg, competed at the 1904 Summer Olympics, and won three gold medals, two silver and a bronze.

Oliver Halassy (HUN) (Water Polo – 1928, 1932, 1936)

Oliver Halassy of Hungary, whose left leg was amputated below the knee, won three medals (two gold and a silver) in water polo in the Olympic Games of 1928, 1932 and 1936.

Karoly Takacs (HUN) (Shooting – 1948)

Karoly Takacs, also from Hungary, won gold in shooting at the 1948 Summer Olympics. His right hand had been destroyed by a hand grenade ten years earlier, and he had taught himself to shoot with his left.

Lis Hartel (DEN) (Equestrian Dressage – 1952)

Lis Hartel was one of the first women allowed to compete against men in the equestrian dressage. Despite being paralysed below the knees after contracting polio in 1944, when she was 23, Hartel was chosen to represent Denmark in the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki. She responded by earning the silver medal.

Harold V. Connolly (USA) (Athletics (Hammer Throw) – 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968)

Harold Connolly was Olympic hammer throwing gold medallist at the Melbourne Olympic Games of 1956 , a fact made remarkable by the fact that he had Erbs Palsy, which meant the his left arm was some 4.5 inches shorter than his right arm, far less muscularly developed and his left hand was two-thirds the size of his right hand.

Im Dong-Hyun (KOR) (Archery – 2004, 2008, 2012)

South Korean archer Im Dong-Hyun has 20/200 vision in his left eye and 20/100 vision in his right eye, meaning he is legally blind in his left eye. He won Olympic gold in the team competition in 2004 and 2008, and bronze in 2012.

Athletes with a disability who have competed at the Olympic and Paralympic Games

Neroli Fairhall (NZL) (Archery)

Paralympics – 1980, 1988, 2000
Olympics – 1984

New Zealander Neroli Fairhall was the first paraplegic competitor to compete in the Olympic Games. After competing in the 1980 Summer Paralympics in Arnhem she competed in the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984.where she finished 35th in the women’s individual event. Fairhall also won gold when archery was first introduced to the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane in 1982.

Sonia Vettenburg (BEL) (Shooting)

Paralympics – 1984, 1988
Olympics – 1992

Having been a medallist at the 1984 1nd 1988 Paralympic Games Sonia Vettenburg from Belgium finished 37th at the Barcelona Olympic Games in the women’s 10 metre air pistol.

Paola Fantato (ITA) (Archery)

Paralympics – 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004
Olympics – 1996

Paola Fantato of Italy contracted Polio at the age of eight and has been a wheelchair used ever since. She competed in archery at five consecutive Paralympic Games from 1988 to 2004 winning three individual and two team gold medals. In addition she represented Italy in archery the Atlanta Olympic Games where she finished 54th in the individual event and 9th in the team event

Marla Runyan (USA) (Athletics – Middle Distance)

Paralympics – 1992, 1996
Olympics – 2000, 2004

Marla Runyan is an American visually impaired athlete who won multiple medals in a range of track and field events in the 1992 and 1996 Paralympic Games. She then turned her talents to middle distance running and successfully qualified to compete in the Sydney Olympic Games in the 1500m where she finished 8th. She also finished 9th in a first round heat of the women’s 5000m at the Athens Olympic Games of 2004.

Natalia Partyka (POL) (Table Tennis)

Paralympics – 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012
Olympics – 2008, 2012

Natalia Partyka of Poland was born without a right hand or forearm. She first competed in the Paralympic Games at the age of just eleven in Sydney 2000. She has been women’s individual champion in her class at the last three Paralympic Games and also represented Poland at the Olympic table tennis events in Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

Natalie du Toit (RSA) (Swimming)

Paralympics – 2004, 2008, 2012
Olympics – 2008

Natalie du Toit is a South African single above the knee amputee who won multiple gold medals at the Paralympic Games between 2004 and 2012. In Beijing 2008 she also qualified to represent South Africa at the Beijing Olympic Games in the 10km Open water Swim, finishing 16th.

Assunta Legnante (ITA) (Athletics – Shot Put)

Paralympics – 2012
Olympics – 2008

Assunte Legnante was born with congenital glaucoma in both eyes. Prior to 2009 she had sufficient sight to compete in non-disabled sport and took part in the Beijing Olympic Games in the women’s shot put. However, in 2009 her sight deteriorated dramatically and is now classified as legally blind. She is the current F11 World record holder for shot put, set when she took the gold medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Oscar Pistorius (RSA) (Athletics)

Paralympics – 2004, 2008, 2012
Olympics – 2012

In London 2012 Oscar Pistorius became the first amputee to run at the Summer Olympic Games, where he competed in the 400m and 4 x 400 relay events.

Athletes who have competed at the Olympic Games, become disabled, and then competed at the Paralympic Games.

Pál Szekeres (HUN)

Olympics – 1988 (Fencing)
Paralympics – 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 (Wheelchair Fencing)

There is at present only one athlete who has won a medal at the Olympics prior to becoming disabled, and has then gone on to win medals at the Paralympics. Hungarian fencer Pál Szekeres won a bronze medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics, then was disabled in a bus accident, and went on to win three gold medals and three bronze in wheelchair fencing at the Paralympics. He currently has the distinction of being the only person ever to have won medals at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Orazio Fagone (ITA) (Winter Sports)

Olympics – 1988, 1992, 1994 (Short Track Speed Skating)
Paralympics – 2006, 2010 (Sledge Hockey)

Orazio Fagone competed for Italy as a short track speed skater in three Olympic Games from 1988 to 1994. At the Lillehammer 1994 Games he was part of the Italian team which won the gold medal in the 5000 metre relay competition. However, Fagone’s right leg was amputated after a motorcycle accident in 1997. He has since competed in two winter Paralympic Games in 2006 and 2008 with the Italian sledge hockey team.

Ilke Wyludda (GER)

Olympics – 1992, 1996, 2000 (Athletics – Discus)
Paralympics – 2012 (Athletics – Discus & Shot Put)

Ilke Wyludda from Germany competed in the Olympics from 1992 to 2000 winning the gold medal in women’s discuss in Atlanta in 1996. In early January 2011 Wyludda revealed in German newspaper Bild that she had to have her right leg amputated because of Sepsis. She then competed in the London 2012 Paralympic Games in the F57/58 discus and shot put competitions finishing 9th in the discus and 5th in the shot put.

Deaf/ Hearing Impaired Athletes who have competed at the Olympic Games

Although officially not currently part of the Paralympic movement I have included a list of athletes who are either deaf or hearing impaired and have competed at the Olympic Games

Carlo Orlandi (ITA) 1928

Carlo Orlandi was an Italian boxer who competed in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, and was also a deaf-mute. He won the gold medal in the lightweight class.

Donald Gollan (GBR) 1928

UK rower Donald Gollan won a silver medal as a member of the rowing eights in 1928. He was deaf and mute.

Ildikó Újlaky-Rejtő (HUN) 1960 – 1976

Deaf Hungarian fencer Ildikó Újlaky-Rejtő won two individual medals (a gold and a bronze) and five team medals at the Olympics between 1960 and 1976.

Jeff Float (USA) 1984

Jeff Float swam the third leg for the US in the 4 × 200-meter freestyle relay. He had lost 80% of his hearing in his right ear and 60% in his left ear after contracting viral meningitis at the age of 13 months.

Terence Parkin (RSA) 2000, 2004

Deaf South African swimmer Terence Parkin won a silver medal in the 200-meter breaststroke at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 and also participated in 2004 in Athens

Frank Bartolillo (AUS) 2004

Australian Frank Bartolillo is profoundly deaf, and competed in the individual foil event in fencing at the Athens 2004 Olympics.

Chris Colwill (USA) 2008, 2012

Chris Colwill, who has a 65% hearing loss, is a diver from the USA. Colwill is not able to wear his hearing aid when he dives, so he can’t hear the whistle that signals to the divers when they can go. Therefore, the referees nod to him in addition to the whistle so that he can recognize the signal.

David Smith (USA) 2012

David Smith was part of the USA volleyball team at the 2012 London Olympics. Smith has been deaf since birth, having 80-90% hearing loss, and has worn hearing aids since he was three years old.


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