Paralympic swimming

Paralympic swimming is an adaptation of the sport of swimming for athletes with disabilities. Paralympic swimmers compete at the Summer Paralympic Games and at other sports competitions throughout the world. The sport is governed by the International Paralympic Committee. Both men and women compete in Paralympic swimming, racing against competitors of their own gender. Swimming has been a part of the Paralympic program since the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy.[1]

Swimming at the 2008 Summer Paralympics


Rules for the sport are adapted from those set forth by the International Swimming Federation (FINA). Swimmers compete individually in backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle, individual medley, and as teams in relay races. At the Paralympics, World Championships and other elite level competitions, swimmers compete in an Olympic-size swimming pool.

Swimming pool with multiple diving platforms

Significant differences between able-bodied and Paralympic swimming include the starting position and adaptations allowed for visually impaired swimmers. Competitors may start a race by standing on a platform and diving into the pool, as in non-disabled swimming, or by sitting on the platform and diving in, or they may start the race in the water. In events for the blind and visually impaired, people called "tappers" may stand at the end of the pool and use a pole to tap the swimmers when they approach the wall, indicating when the swimmer should turn or end the race.[2] No prostheses or assistive devices may be worn during competition.[1]


Australian swimmer Brendan Burkett at the 1996 Summer Paralympics in Atlanta, USA.

Swimmers are classified according to the type and extent of their disability. The classification system allows swimmers to compete against others with a similar level of function.

Swimmers with physical disabilities are allocated a category between 1 and 10, with 1 corresponding to the most severe types of disability. Physical disabilities of Paralympic swimmers include single or multiple limb loss (through birth defects and/or amputation), cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries (leading to paralysis or disability in limb coordination), dwarfism, and disabilities which impair the use of joints.[3]

Blind and visually impaired swimmers compete within separate categories, being allocated to categories 11, 12 or 13. Category 11 corresponds to totally blind swimmers, while competitors in category 13 have severe but not total visual impairment.[3] Category 11 swimmers compete with blackened goggles to ensure competitors are on an even level. Category 11 swimmers are also required to use tappers but they are optional for category 12 and 13.[4]

Swimmers with mental disabilities compete in category 14.[3]

Numbers are combined with a letter prefix depending on the event type. An "S" prefix corresponds to freestyle, backstroke and butterfly, while "SB" corresponds to breaststroke and "SM" to the medley. Hence, a swimmer with severe physical disabilities competing in backstroke may compete in an S3 event, while a blind swimmer in the medley would compete in class SM11.[3]

For relay races, athletes from different classifications compete together, but the sum of their individual classifications must not exceed a given points total. For example, a relay team for a 34 points freestyle relay may consist of two S8 swimmers and two S9 swimmers (9 + 9 + 8 + 8 = 34), or an S10 swimmer and three S8 swimmers (10 + 8 + 8 + 8 = 34) [5]

Medal tableEdit

Updated to 2016 Summer Paralympics. Countries in italics are former countries who participated in the Paralympic Games.

1  United States (USA)269204214687
2  Great Britain (GBR)222246220688
3  Netherlands (NED)181127109417
4  Canada (CAN)162122121405
5  Australia (AUS)125154153432
6  France (FRA)120105105330
7  China (CHN)11910387309
8  Poland (POL)11711585317
9  Spain (ESP)108116113337
10  Sweden (SWE)10611475295
11  West Germany (FRG)766758201
12  Norway (NOR)725140163
13  Ukraine (UKR)696269200
14  Germany (GER)597358190
15  Israel (ISR)555749161
16  Italy (ITA)384946133
17  Japan (JPN)38233899
18  Denmark (DEN)373765139
19  South Africa (RSA)34252786
20  Russia (RUS)33263392
21  New Zealand (NZL)29201463
22  Mexico (MEX)25162263
23  Brazil (BRA)23303285
24  Hungary (HUN)22233378
25  Belarus (BLR)2111638
26  Austria (AUT)19131749
27  Iceland (ISL)1481739
28  Argentina (ARG)13222257
29  Czech Republic (CZE)1351634
30  Rhodesia (RHO)12131136
31  Greece (GRE)10171138
32  Ireland (IRL)109928
33  Finland (FIN)7172448
34  South Korea (KOR)72514
35  Belgium (BEL)6161537
36  Jamaica (JAM)56314
37  Unified Team (EUN)43714
38  Yugoslavia (YUG)35917
39  Singapore (SIN)3115
40  Switzerland (SUI)29718
41  Colombia (COL)25411
42  Estonia (EST)2529
43  Uzbekistan (UZB)24612
44  Slovakia (SVK)2215
45  Peru (PER)2136
46  Cyprus (CYP)2114
47  Faroe Islands (FRO)17513
48  Azerbaijan (AZE)1708
49  Egypt (EGY)13610
50  Thailand (THA)1348
51  Cuba (CUB)1225
52  Luxembourg (LUX)1203
53  Independent Paralympic Participants (IPP)1102
54  Hong Kong (HKG)1034
55  India (IND)1001
  Kazakhstan (KAZ)1001
  Kenya (KEN)1001
58  Soviet Union (URS)011920
59  Portugal (POR)0369
60  Zimbabwe (ZIM)0235
61  Kuwait (KUW)0123
62  Czechoslovakia (TCH)0112
63  Bulgaria (BUL)0101
  Lithuania (LTU)0101
  Vietnam (VIE)0101
66  Croatia (CRO)0044
67  Slovenia (SLO)0022
68  Bahamas (BAH)0011
  Morocco (MAR)0011
  Trinidad and Tobago (TTO)0011
Totals (70 nations)2311218621136610

Notable Paralympic SwimmersEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "U.S. Paralympics". Team USA. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  2. ^ "Swimming - About the sport". International Paralympic Committee. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-14.
  3. ^ a b c d "A-Z of Paralympic classification". BBC. 2008-08-28. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Swimming: Paralympic Classifications". Team USA. Retrieved 14 April 2019.

External linksEdit