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2012 Paralympics kick off with the first day of action

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Tao Zheng of China celebrates winning the men's 100m backstroke final on Aug. 30.

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Jessica Long of the United States competes in the women's 100m butterfly - S8 heat 2 on Aug. 30.

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Members of the Italian team look on as Spain's Alejandro Zarzuela Beltran, right, attempts a shot during their preliminary men's group A wheelchair basketball match, Aug. 30.

The action of the London 2012 Paralympic Games got started on Thursday. According to the Associated Press, athletes will be competing in 20 different sports, including archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball and swimming.

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A sign reading "Chasing a dream with his whole family behind him!" leans against the wheelchair of Bob Hudson of Canada during the ranking round match on Aug. 30.

NBC News reports:

The event was founded in 1948 to help rehabilitate injured British veterans returning from the Second World War, though many Americans remain unaware that it exists. (There's also a tendency to confuse it with the Special Olympics, which is unrelated.) Paralympic athletes compete despite impairments including amputations, blindness, cerebral palsy and mobility disabilities. Read the full story.

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Natalia Partyka of Poland serves during her women's singles C10 table tennis classification match against Umran Ertis of Turkey Aug. 30. Partyka has won gold medals in both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2004 Athens Olympics, and she is also the only female athlete to compete in both the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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Mostafa Shahbazi Yajlou of Iran competes during the men's group B goalball match between China and Iran on Aug. 30.

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Prostheses and crutches of athletes are seen at the Aquatics Center during the swimming competitions of the London 2012 Paralympic Games in London, Britain, Aug. 30.