2017 Swammy Awards Para-Swimming Male & Female Swimmers of the Year: Vacant
Note from our editor: 2017 was supposed to be a glorious year for para-swimming. The launch of the new Para-Swimming World Series was intended to give athletes new opportunities to gain exposure, both to fans and to elite-level competition across the world. The World Championships set for Mexico City were expected to be a great event, combined with Powerlifting for a grand multi-sport event.
But things didn’t go according to plan in 2017. The Para-Swimming world has had a build-up of accusations of ‘intentional misrepresentation’ of disabilities over the last half-decade, and the shouting seems to have reached a crescendo in 2017. Swimmers have gone from able-bodied national champions to Paralympic World Record holders in a matter of months, without explanation of injury or degenerative condition. A British track athlete returned a medal, because she felt a teammate was misclassified. Swimmers have dropped 10 seconds in a day from a classification swim, that moved them to a lower classification, to a competitive swim. Officials have made threats to those who complained (and their children) that their funding could be pulled for blowing whistles. The whole system is under review, and under review again, and nobody really seems to be able to make heads-or-tails of what is happening.
And those are just the things that are within human control. After a devastating earthquake hit Mexico City, the Para Swimming World Championships had to be moved to December. This led to a scattered and disjointed championship season. A few replacement meets were cobbled together to try and catch tapers – one in Toronto, and one in Eindhoven. Many federations couldn’t afford to, or chose not to, attend the December championships. That includes powerhouse federations like Great Britain, Australia, and Ukraine that were decimated.
The Paralympic movement has long lived on the power of ‘inspiration,’ of the ability of humans to defy the world’s expectations of what athletes look like. Of late, though, the Paralympic house has begun to crumble. As visibility grows, so too do the dollars, and with the dollars comes exploitation and cheating of the movement.
As a result of recent accusations, discord, cheating, and overall chaos, SwimSwam’s staff got together and decided that we didn’t feel comfortable handing out a ParaSwimming Swimmer of the Year award for 2017. There is too much uncertainty, too many unknowns, and not enough context to fairly recognize who was the best this year. There is too much uncertainty, too much that we (nor anybody else) knows, and too many moving parts.
Instead, we’ll recognize a few surface-level highlights, in no particular order, of the 2017 season:
- American Jessica Long won 8 gold medals at the World ParaSwimming Championships, absent many of her chief rivals from the 2016 Paralympic Games.
- Brazil’s Andre Brasil won 7 gold and 1 silver medal at the same World Championships.
- Even with a smaller-than-average field, 36 World Records and 44 championship records were broken in Mexico City.
- In total, even in a post-Paralympic year, World ParaSwimming recognized (so far) 81 World Records in 2017: 55 in long course, and 26 in short course.