Background: Since 1940, people with disabilities have been using sport as a therapeutic tool. Simply surviving the challenges of everyday life has helped to prepare athletes with
disabilities to face the sometimes daunting challenges in the world of sports. Such challenges include restricted access to high-tech sports, limited media coverage and lack of sponsorships, ethical
issues and doping, sports injuries, and retirement. Another challenge is lack of access to many of the elite sports practiced by their peers without disabilities.
Case presentation: The purpose of this study was to briefly illustrate some of these challenges and the realities of national and international Paralympic sports.
Discussion: The disabled elite athlete paradigm is still unknown in the world of competition. Disabled elite athletes with successful results are still restricted to a few countries,
including the U.S., Canada, Germany, China, and Australia, who have gained between 9% and 29% of all medals for all events. Brazil won 2.8% of the Paralympic sports medals in its best campaign in
London, against China’s 15.2%, the country with the highest number of medals. In short, the distribution of disability sport continues to show elitism. This reflects global problems of social
vulnerability in accessibility (e.g., in dismantling of the stigma of disability), political vulnerability (e.g., priorities outside of the claim of "sport for all" by the representative organizations
of sports for the disabled), and economic vulnerability (e.g., lack of opportunities for training and adapted sports technology, and sponsorships). The elite Brazilian Paralympic athletes that have
achieved success are veterans. Of the 181 athletes who went to London, 22% were athletes who had participated in the previous game, and 7% had participated in more than two games. In the 1984
Paralympics, although with fewer athletes, Brazilian participation marked the beginning of a new generation of athletes that continue to return to the games (16%). In 2008 and 2012, a total of 28%
were veterans. Although this picture reveals longevity of athletes in the sport—which is unusual when compared to non-disabled athletes—there are many limitations in sports opportunities, largely
because of geographical centralization of opportunities in large urban centers. Yet, today, the world of the Paralympic sport has transformed the concept to spectacular sports, thanks to access by
some exceptional athletes, and thanks to the technology of mass communication, and (partially) to the support of society. These sport stars offer the "ordinary world" their unique visibility and new
concepts of ability. While the podium has helped to highlight these heroes, future Brazilian athletes are still waiting for their opportunity. Young blind individuals, those in wheelchairs, amputees,
or simply the uncoordinated, are spread across Brazilian cities and expect, above all, to play, run, swim, and take part in the model of "sport for all." Sports opportunities are expected by all to be
a part of daily life practice, an option for rehabilitation, for the preservation of health, and as a right.