With the rise of the Paralympic Games, a growing number of countries are entering the Global Sporting Arms Race for international Paralympic success. As a result, policy makers are recognising the
need to strategically invest in elite sport development structures to optimise pathway support for Paralympic athletes. In the Olympic context, authors have shown that international sporting success
is the result of complex interactions between 1/ the country’s overall profile, 2/ its elite sport climate/policies, 3/ the athlete’s personal predispositions and environment. The aim of this paper is
to present a review of the state of knowledge on these factors in the Paralympic context and their implications for the development of a national policy framework of key factors influencing
international para-sporting success.
A narrative literature review was conducted using a conceptual framework (De Bosscher et al., 2006) which classifies factors influencing international sporting success in three dimensions: the
macro-level (countries’ social, cultural, political, economic and geographic context); the meso-level (factors that shape elite sport systems and can be influenced by policy); the micro-level
(athletes’ physical characteristics and social support).
The review reveals that while the achievement of Olympic and Paralympic success share many common influential factors at the macro-, meso- and micro-levels, there are specific factors to the
para-sport context. These factors potentially have an influence on Paralympic success, but evidence of this link is limited. At the macro level, causes of disability (eg. war situations), social
conditions of and treatments towards people with disabilities are suggested factors. At the meso- and micro- levels, specific factors relate to the current trend of integrating para-sport in national
sporting structures and the degree to which there is understanding and response at the elite level towards: the specific requirements of para-sport (eg. classification, technology), the complexities
of its governance at the national level, and the diverse profiles and needs of Paralympic athletes (eg. age, socio-economic situation, acquired vs congenital impairment).
While knowledge surrounding elite para-sport is developing, this review illustrates that para-sport is under represented in sport management and policy literature. With regards to national elite sport
policy/development systems specifically, the key determinants of Paralympic excellence requires further investigation. This study is the first stage of a larger doctoral research project that aims to
address the knowledge gap by developing and validating a national framework of elite sport policy factors influencing international para-sporting success.