The USOPC celebrated one year to go until the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games by announcing the dates and location of the 2024 US Paralympic Team Trials in swimming and track & field.
The US Para-Swimming Trials will return to a familiar place, running from June 27-29 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. That means the meet will start four days after the Olympic Trials conclude in Indianapolis.
In Para-Swimming, athletes are grouped into 14 classifications.
- S1-S10: Physical Impairments
- S11-S13: Visual Impairments
- S14: Intellectual Impairment
In general, the lower the number within those groupings, the more sever the athlete’s disability is.
The University of Minnesota’s Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center has become the focal point of para-swimming domestically. It hosted the 2021 US Olympic Trials as well ahead of the Tokyo Games, and hosted a stop of the 2023 Para Swimming World Series.
The venue seats up to 1,350 spectators permanently (expandable to 2,500) and is unusual in American swimming in that seating runs along both lengths of the competition course.
The return is a boon for rising Team USA star Summer Schmit because it means another home meet – the 20-year-old from nearby Stillwater is a rising sophomore at the University of Minnesota; last year, as a freshman, she was named the team’s Hardest Worker and Outstanding Student-Athlete award winner.
Already a Tokyo 2020 Paralympian, Schmit has now represented the USA at two consecutive World Championships as well, winning a bronze medal in 2022 in the S9 400-meter freestyle.
Team USA won 25 medals, including 6 gold, to place 10th in the medals table at the 2023 World Championships. Like USA Swimming faced at the World Aquatics Championships, that was a historic-low for the Americans. The US doesn’t usually lead the medals tables in para-swimming, but are almost always among the top 5 nations.
31-year-old Jessica Long continues to be the face of Team USA, winning the 100 fly (S8) and 200 IM (SM8) at the 2023 World Championships in Manchester. Those medals add to 54 career World Championship medals plus a further 29 Paralympic medals.
Other big names to watch for the Americans ahead of next include Olivia Chambers, who won six medals at the World Championships in the S13 category (albeit none of them gold). Noah Jaffe won four medals, including gold in the 100 free in the S8 classification. Both Chambers and Jaffe made their World Championship debuts in Manchester.
Morgan Stickney is also hurtling toward Paris after dominating the S7 freestyle races at Worlds. She won the 100 free and 400 free, including breaking an 11-year old World Record in the 400 free. That came after a year that saw her in-and-out-of the hospital and a reclassification from the S8 class to the S7 class.
Team USA will also be hoping for a boost from the return of two big names. Double Tokyo gold medalist Mallory Weggemann, who sat out the season with a pregnancy and the birth of her first child in March. Weggemann also lives in Minnesota, though she is from Kansas.
McKenzie Coan, a four-time Paralympic gold medalist and triple World Champion in 2022, will also return to the pool after multiple health issues forced her out of the 2023 World Championships.
Their absences, along with that of the currently-sanctioned Robert Griswold who won two World Championships in 2022, contributed to the Americans’ overall struggles at Worlds.
Qualifications for the Paralympic Games are awarded to each National Paralympic Committee, not individual athletes, and the NPCs then reallocate those spots among eligible athletes who have met the qualification standards. A team can have up to 34 male and 28 female allocation slots. An NPC can enter one relay in each event, though all participants must be in at least one individual event to be chosen.
Slots are allocated to NPCs based on the results of the 2023 World Para Championships, world rankings from October 1, 2022 through January 31, 2024, and a handful of wildcard slots available via Bipartite Commission Invitation. 605 total athletes are invited to the meet.