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]


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.

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]


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 table

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 Swimmers

See also


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