Following the establishment of the International Paralympic Committee in late 1989, the new organisation took over the responsibility of co-ordinating Paralympic Games with the host organising committees from the number of organisations that previously did this work (this included the International Stoke Mandeville Games Federation and other such bodies).

Throughout the decade, the Paralympic Games were twinned with their Olympic counterparts and the host city continued to be the same: Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996


One of the big changes in the 1990s was the recognition of the distances that quadriplegic athletes were able to race over. Guttmann had believed that these athletes would be unable to cope with distance racing and the only quadriplegic races distance in the 1970s were over 60 metres. Wheelchair athletes had had continued to push against this barrier and, by 1990, were racing at all distances up to and including the Marathon. 

"While I was racing Marathons one of my biggest emotions was the time I passed through the Brandenburgertor in the Berlin Marathon and going into the newly-opened East Germany - this was 1990, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall. And I thought about Papa Guttmann and the time back at Stoke Mandeville [in 1965] when he had said to me, “Rainer, the best you can do in the future is just being able to get you to sit up in a wheelchair”. He had told me I would be quite unable to even push a wheelchair – and he had never suggested that I would be able to race in one. And now here I was leading in a Marathon! It gave me goose bumps just thinking about it there. As I passed through the Brandenburg Gate it was as if I was going through my own personal gate into a new world" Rainer Kuschall

Photo:When Rainer Kuschall came to Barcelona in 1992 he was the favourite to win the Marathon, having taken the world record the previous year at Heidelberg

When Rainer Kuschall came to Barcelona in 1992 he was the favourite to win the Marathon, having taken the world record the previous year at Heidelberg

photo:Rainer Kuschall


"For the 1992 Paralympics at Barcelona I knew it was going to be hot so I had designed myself a pumped water spray with a nozzle that was positioned on my chest that allowed me to cool myself down. With the water bottle underneath it added half a kilo to my total weight but I reckoned it would be worth it. At the time I had a moustache and it took a while for me to realise that the pump wasn’t working as efficiently because the water was getting trapped in the moustache – so I shaved that off. I spent months training on rollers for that race. I had also changed the design of my chair so that the position of my legs was underneath me; that way I was 30% lower in the chair than my competitors. I was the only one of the quads racing at Barcelona in that position. I was also the first quad to use a full titanium chair in that year. 
But in the end I only got silver. It was my own fault; I was too arrogant. You know I didn’t even take the sightseeing bus around the Marathon route in advance to check out the gradients. Unusually there was a big climb right at the end of the race and then one final hair pin bend. My big competitor in that race was the German Heine Köberle. I knew that I should be able to beat him in the sprint at the end but I hadn’t bargained on that final climb and in the end he was much stronger and he took me in the final 20 metres just before the hairpin bend; he took me inch by inch. As usual I had got a very small diameter push frame on for that race – good for the flat, but not designed for that final climb – and in the end Heine rolled in front of me by a few metres and I took silver. That was my last Olympics; I came away with six medals but no wins." Rainer Kuschall"


"It was Barcelona that really (and I still say this to this day, even after by far the greatest games ever in London last year) were the games that made the biggest difference, where there was no charge, it was free entry, but the stadia were packed out." Sir Philip Craven

The previous games at Seoul in 1988 had been seen as a major step forward for the Paralympics in terms of profile, audiences, seriousness and spectacle. Yet the 1992 games at Barcelona managed to take this process a stage further.

Photo: Illustrative image for the '1990s' page

Sir Philip Craven, who had previously captained the British wheelchair basketball team in the 1980s, was now one of the people involved in organising the Barcelona games and he describes why they were so distinctive here

"What we all noticed was the shift in professionalism of the whole structure - not just of us as athletes, but in the way the whole games functioned... It really felt for the first time that there was starting to be an equity with the Olympic games." Tara Flood

Photo: Illustrative image for the '1990s' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the '1990s' page
Tara Flood took gold and the world record in breast stroke in the Les Autres class at Barcelona. She reflects on the professionalism and quality of the Barcelona games here


Photo:Chris Holmes, the visually-impaired swimmer winniing one of the six gold medals that he took at Barcelona

Chris Holmes, the visually-impaired swimmer winniing one of the six gold medals that he took at Barcelona

Photo: Illustrative image for the '1990s' page

"Local Barcelonians all queued round the block to get into the pool, to get into the stadium, to get into the basketball. They really made it the city's games." Chris Holmes

 Chris Holmes took six swimming gold medals at the Barcelona games, a feat still unrivaled by any British Paralympic athlete. He talks about the sheer excitement of winning his sixth gold in the 100 metres freestyle here


This page was added on 07/10/2011.

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