One size does not fit all: Australian and Canadian paralympic pathways


Recent research suggests athletes with acquired and congenital impairment have different sporting trajectories. This study aimed to extend this limited literature and explore the impact of impairment-onset on athletes' sporting development by examining their developmental trajectories, training histories, and experiences in organized sports. Two-hundred thirteen Australian and Canadian athletes from 18 Paralympic sports completed the Developmental Histories of Athletes' Questionnaire (DHAQ). Impairment-onset was organized into five groups of congenital, acquired during pre-adolescence (25 years of age). Results suggest athletes with late-onset impairments (i.e., acquired in early adulthood or adulthood) achieve sporting milestones and start incorporating various types of training at a later chronological age than athletes in early-onset impairments (i.e., congenital, pre-adolescence). However, the former group demonstrated a quicker progression through their careers (i.e., achieve milestones and incorporate training types at a faster pace). Each group had different training profiles, with clear preferences for certain conditions within each training type. In addition, most athletes with acquired impairments had experiences in able-bodied sports that were similar to their current Paralympic sport. However, experience in other Paralympic sports was reported less often for the entire sample (though, the rate of similarity between sports remained the same). Findings provide a range of implications and highlight the importance of considering impairment-related factors that influence the already complex development system when designing policies and allocating resources.