…to create opportunities, supports and services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; so that they can develop and maintain healthy lifestyles and reach their highest potential in sport and in life.
Athletes Without Limits began with one athlete who wouldn’t let intellectual disability stand in the way of his quest to become a world champion. Over the last decade we’ve grown to ten sports and hundreds of US athletes with a shared dream to reach their highest levels.
Here in the US, Athletes Without Limits helps athletes identify coaching, training and competition opportunities at the national, regional and local level with a focus on the integration of athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities into mainstream and Paralympic sport.
The startup of Athletes Without Limits in 2009 as the US member of Virtus (formerly Inas) made it possible for US athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities to compete for the first time in open international competition including Virtus Global Games & World Championships and International Paralympic Committee events, including the Paralympic Games. Athletes Without Limits oversees the selection process, registration and travel arrangements for US teams traveling to Virtus competitions.
Inas & Paralympic Athlete Eligibility
Athletes Without Limits is responsible for determining whether US athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities are eligible for Virtus (formerly Inas), Paralympic and other international competitions. This lengthy process involves intensive reviews of an athlete’s assessments by professional staff. Since 2009, we have increased the number of Virtus/Paralympic-eligible US athletes from 1 to over 150.
In 2016 Athletes Without Limits hosted the first Inas World Championships ever to take place in the United States with the 2016 Inas Tennis World Championships in Sea Colony Delaware. Since then we’ve also hosted a Half-Marathon in New York and a 2017 National Swimming Meet in Atlanta with future events on the horizon.
Dreams Come True
Michael Murray was the first American with intellectual disability to earn a spot on the U.S. Paralympic team and compete at the London 2012 Paralympics. In 2016 five athletes were selected to compete at the Rio 2016 Games representing each of the three Paralympic Sports open to athletes with intellectual impairment, two winning the US its first ever medals (both Gold) in the new class. We look forward to more of our athletes qualifying for future Paralympic Games.
Ten Sports and Growing
Athletes Without Limits currently provides eligibility and advocacy for athletes in: Athletics (Track & Field), Basketball (in development), Equestrian, Golf, Karate, Rowing, Skiing (in development), Swimming, Table Tennis, Taekwondo and Tennis. We have also promoted athletes competing in Cycling and mainstream Triathlon.
Additionally, we actively advocate and educate and stood in strong support of the 2009 international vote to re-include athletes with intellectual impairment in Paralympic competition. Our advocacy work also involves working with event promoters to include a class for athletes with intellectual disability (similar to an age or gender breakdown for award purposes) at mainstream sporting events so that athletes are not always in isolated/segregated events.
Integration Leads to Acceleration
Our model promotes excellence in sport through inclusion and integration of athletes with disability into mainstream training and competition. Our efforts to improve opportunities for athletes with intellectual impairment have engaged, inspired and involved athletes of all ability and background, including armed services veterans and active duty members, professional athletes, novices and high schoolers.
We focus on athletes, not impairments.
Virtus (formerly Inas) is an association of 87 countries that manages eligibility requirements for athletes with an intellectual impairments and organizes 10-15 regional and world championship events yearly including the Global Games. Virtus is a founding member of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and is worked with the IPC on the re-inclusion of athletes with intellectual impairment into Paralympic competitions including the 2012 London Paralympics.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is “the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement. The IPC organizes the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games, and serves as the International Federation for nine sports, for which it supervises and co-ordinates the World Championships and other competitions. The IPC is committed to enabling Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and to developing sport opportunities for all persons with a disability from the beginner to elite level. In addition, the IPC aims to promote the Paralympic values, which include courage, determination, inspiration and equality.”
U.S. Paralympics is a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the US member of the IPC. U.S. Paralympics oversees Paralympic training, programs and competitions in the United States as well as Team USA selection and travel to IPC competitions abroad — including the Paralympic Games. Currently there are new Paralympic opportunities for athletes with intellectual impairment in three sports: Swimming, Table Tennis and Track & Field.
US athletes with intellectual impairment wishing to compete in Paralympic competition should begin by working with Athletes Without Limits to complete the Virtus II-1 International eligibility application as the first step toward Paralympic Classification.