Check out all of our 2015 Swammy Awards here.
2015 Female Para-Swimmer of the Year: Tiffany Thomas Kane, Australia
While teammate James Magnussen languished most of 2015 battling shoulder injury, Tiffany Thomas Kane emerged as an unlikely star of the Ravenswood Swimming Club housed at the Ravenswood School for Girls.
The 13-year old, who was born with hypochondroplasia, won the IPC World Championship in the SB6 100 meter breaststroke in Glasgow in July with a 1:34.95, and in the process stole the attention of the swimming community in a manner rarely seen from a para-athlete.
Watch Thomas Kane’s record swim below:
For the first time in SwimSwam history, a story about para-swimming was our website’s leading story not only over the course of a day, but over the course of three consecutive days. What’s more, more people read the article about her World Record than the World Record articles about any other swim in 2015, including those broken by superstars Adam Peaty and Katie Ledecky.
Thomas Kane added a pair of short course World Records in the 50 free and 50 breaststroke.
No, Thomas Kane didn’t have the most gold medals or most medals at the World Championships, but her haul of 4 was impressive for a 13-year old, and her one victory was the most spoken-of event of the year in the world of IPC swimming.
And here’s the kicker: in a year where the core classification process of para-swimming was torn shred-for-shred by the sport’s athletes, fans, and even National Team coaches, Thomas Kane’s performances were nary cast even an iota into doubt. As was explained in this article by Tom Miazga, the S6 class and its height restrictions are among the purely-objective classifications in para-swimming. Thomas Kane’s record cannot be called into question for misclassification.
Thomas Kane stood as a beacon for the sport in 2015, and in a class that historically has been a crowd-and-media favorite at the Paralympics, her pending battles with 2012 star Ellie Simmonds, plus emerging stars in the class like Charlotte Henshaw, will be both a highlight and a haven for Rio.
- American Jessica Long, likely among the biggest female benefactors of NBC’s massive new coverage package for Rio, showed she was worthy of carrying the flag for the American contingent. At the 2015 World Championships, Long won gold medals in the 100 breaststroke (SB7), 200 IM (SM8), 400 free (S8), to go with three silvers. Her 6 total medals were tied for the most by a female at the World Championships and earned in one of the most competitive classes.
- Canadian Aurelie Rivard picked up the torch for the maple leafs in 2015 in the S10 classification after superstar Summer Mortimer changed her sporting nationality to the Netherlands (and had good success of her own). Rivard won S10 golds at the World Championships in the 400 and 50 freestyles. She added to that two silver medals, including in the 100 free, where later in the summer she would roll on to the Para-Pan American Games in front of a home crowd in Toronto to break the World Record: part of a 6-medal performance for the 19-year old. Rivard stood to the challenge of reigning S10 queen Sophie Pascoe with a head-to-head victory in the 50 free early at the World Championships, setting up great storylines in the S10 class for the Paralympic year.
- Australian Ellie Cole made a thunderous return to swimming in 2015 after spending two years focusing on her secondary sport, wheelchair basketball. Cole won gold medals in the S9 classification in the women’s 100 back, the women’s 100 free, and as part of Australia’s 34-point 400 free relay, to go with two minor medals. Her swim in the 100 back was the show-stoper, as she crushed the old World Record of 1:09.30 both in prelims (1:08.89) and finals (1:08.67).