How did UK do when we consider volume of participants, GDP, and funding?

 

  • The UK comes 12th on GDP alternative table
  • UK is only 29th in medal per participant table
  • Para-athletics, Para-swimming and Para-cycling receives the highest funding in the UK, winning the highest amount of medals

The Paralympics shifted perceptions about how society views disabilities.

The 2008 Beijing Paralympics saw an extraordinary increase in accessible infrastructure across China. And post London 2012 there was a significant upsurge in employment of people with disabilities across the UK. There’s no doubt events like the Paralympics can be transformative.

China, The UK and The USA. The overall winners in terms of number of medals are hardly surprising – Unrivalled economies and vast populations remain hard to beat – there are additional considerations:

  • The types of sports played – individual sports can win more medals than group sports
  • Funding
  • Participant numbers

But medals alone are not a true measure of success for each country. But by looking at medals per GDP, population and funding, we can highlight The Game’s great overachievers.

The original score table of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

 

Rank Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 People’s Republic of China 96 60 51 207
2 Great Britain 41 38 45 124
3 United States of America 37 36 31 104
4 Russia 36 33 49 118
5 Netherlands 25 17 17 59
6 Ukraine 24 47 27 98
7 Brazil 22 20 30 72
8 Australia 21 29 30 80
9 Italy 14 29 26 69
10 Azerbaijan 14 1 4 19

 

Alternative Tokyo 2020 Paralympics table – medal per GDP

 

Looking at global GDP per capita in US$ – a commonly used metric for predicting Olympic medals – the table changes drastically. Whilst The UK comes in just shy of the top 10 (in position 12) and China and Russia maintain a vicelike grip on the top of the table, Ukraine are The Games’ big winners.

Famed for its castles, ancient cities and The Klitschko brothers, Europe’s largest country comes out on top of medals per GDP table. Uzbekistan, Nigeria, and Morocco are other equally excellent performers.

Rank Country Gold Silver Bronze Total GDP per capita
1 Ukraine 24 47 27 98 3984
2 People’s Republic of China 96 60 51 207 11713
3 Russia 36 33 49 118 10793
4 Brazil 22 20 30 72 6728
5 India 5 8 6 19 2100
6 Uzbekistan 8 5 6 19 2450
7 Colombia 3 7 14 24 5457
8 Nigeria 4 1 5 10 2300
9 Morocco 4 4 3 11 3240
10 Azerbaijan 14 1 4 19 5850

This suggest that while GDP indeed is an important factor, political factors such as spending on sports and building accessible facilities are also imperative to achieving Paralympic success.

 

Alternative Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Table – medal per participant volume

 

When it comes to Olympic medal predictions, a large GDP, population, funding and a powerful political system makes medal success an almost foregone conclusion.

However, when it comes to The Paralympics the calculation gets more complex.  By looking at participant volume as opposed to population data, we can see that countries with a smaller population who sent comparatively fewer athletes performed admirably.

In this breakdown, Netherlands did particularly well and took home 11 extra medals for their headcount which is an extraordinary achievement.

Rank Country Gold Silver Bronze Total Participants
1 Jordan 4 0 1 5 2
2 Cyprus 1 0 1 2 1
3 Kuwait 0 1 1 2 1
4 Namibia 0 1 1 2 1
5 Latvia 0 3 2 5 4
6 Netherlands 25 17 17 59 48
7 Cuba 4 1 1 6 5
8 Nigeria 4 1 5 10 9
9 Costa Rica 1 1 0 2 2
10 Ethiopia 1 0 0 1 1

In this table, The UK comes in 29th place.

This is largely driven by the large number of participants in team sports. The 24 participants in wheelchair basketball only account for one medal.  Same with wheelchair rugby’s 12 participants.

 

Alternative Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Table – most medal wins per sport per funding figures UK

 

Whilst funding is a key predictor for success, having limited funding doesn’t consign a sport to the doldrums of medal anonymity.

By analysing the total funding figures utilised for the Tokyo Paralympics, including both the World Class Programme funding as coming from the National Lottery as well as the Athlete Performance Awards.

Sport Gold Silver Bronze Total Funding amount
Para-Athletics 9 5 10 24 £12,660,737
Para-Swimming 8 9 9 26 £10,869,596
Para-Cycling 10 11 3 24 £8,094,453
Wheelchair Basketball 0 0 1 1 £7,198,344
Para-Equestrian Dressage 3 3 2 8 £4,361,639
Para-Canoe 3 1 3 7 £3,879,921
Boccia 1 0 0 1 £3,779,661
Para-Triathlon 1 1 1 3 £3,759,775
Para-Archery 1 0 1 2 £3,756,092
Para-Rowing 2 0 0 2 £3,664,565
Para-Table Tennis 0 1 5 6 £3,639,593
VI Judo 1 1 0 2 £2,040,986
Powerlifting 0 0 3 3 £1,315,492
Para-Badminton 0 1 1 2 £1,237,500
Wheelchair Fencing 1 1 3 5 £949,222
Wheelchair Tennis 0 3 2 5 £633,250
Para-Taekwondo 0 1 1 2 £519,000
Wheelchair Rugby 1 0 0 1 £50,000

The data shows that while there is a clear connection between funding and medal wins, there are a few sports such as Para-Table Tennis, Wheelchair Fencing and Wheelchair tennis that did extremely well compared to the funding that was available.

This could be a result of several factors. However, the general view is that these sports tend to be cheaper due to requiring less equipment. For example, in wheelchair fencing most equipment can be borrowed from the relevant clubs and centres, reducing the upfront costs even further.

In the case of wheelchair tennis, which is one of the few sports where winners can receive prize money, it can certainly become a motivating factor and increase wins.

 

Alternative Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Table – highest participant numbers per sport for UK

 

Participant data is useful for determining a sport`s overall popularity, regardless of competition or leisure.

The theory that funding determines the wins seem to be true for the UK, however a further analysis of participant data reveals something slightly different – that team sports are on top of the list when it comes to participants.

One of the main changes in the table here is of Wheelchair Rugby, which seems to have the smallest funding of them all yet have done extremely well for winning a gold medal.

Sport Gold Silver Bronze Total Participants
Para-Athletics 9 5 10 24 51
Para-Swimming 8 9 9 26 25
Wheelchair Basketball 0 0 1 1 24
Para-Cycling 10 11 3 24 21
Wheelchair Rugby 1 0 0 1 12
Para-Table Tennis 0 1 5 6 11
Boccia 1 0 0 1 9
Para-Canoe 3 1 3 7 8
Para-Rowing 2 0 0 2 8
Para-Triathlon 1 1 1 3 8
Para-Archery 1 0 1 2 7
Wheelchair Tennis 0 3 2 5 7
Shooting 0 0 0 0 7
Powerlifting 0 0 3 3 5
Para-Equestrian Dressage 3 3 2 8 4
Wheelchair Fencing 1 1 3 5 4
VI Judo 1 1 0 2 4
Para-Badminton 0 1 1 2 4
Para-Taekwondo 0 1 1 2 3

The data also reveals that Para-athletics has 23% of all participants, making it the most popular type of sport, followed by Para-swimming and Para-cycling.

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