2017 Swammy Awards: Para Swimming Honors Left Vacant

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.

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Rod Minnes

That is the best stance Swim Swam has ever taken. I applaud you. Para Swimming has become fake sport.

LMA

Absolutely. IPC Communications Director Craig Spence recently retweeted this Agitos Foundation tweet “Paralysed from the waist down after a bomb attack in Syria, Najib crossed the Mediterranean Sea on a rubber dinghy to seek asylum in Greece. Through Para sport, he now has started a new journey. #TeamAgitos #WithRefugees”. This should be powerful. Why then do they ignore blatant cheating involving able bodied people pretending to be disabled? What an absolute disgrace! There are 5 times as many people employed in the IPC media department and 2 times as many in IPC anti doping team than there are employed to investigate IM – add to that that they cannot retest any Paralympic Games prior to Sochi 2014 because they did… Read more »

LMA

It continues to amaze me that not only are the IPC choosing to ignore IM but they continue to promote and reward the main offenders. Why the IPC have allowed Para Sport to have gotten so bad that we now regularly watch able bodied athletes compete against the disabled is beyond me. Why would they do that? Not much duty of care being demonstrated there nor much sound management. Cheating is rife and World wide within the athlete bodies, coaches, managers, sport scientists, NGBs, IFs and IPC. No wonder no one in a position of authority bats an eyelid. Very disappointing by all involved. The IPC need a serious wake up call and hopefully the UK DCMS Select Committee report… Read more »

Taa

Maybe LP will take a trip to Kenya in February.

LMA

I’ve heard a rumour that no one in Australia will be reclassified in 2018 because it isn’t a necessary requirement for 2018 IPC competition. Anyone else heard anything similar or to the contrary?

Fred

Great article thank you Swimswam.
Stances such as this from organisations like Swimswam will go a long way towards putting pressure on the IPC to clean up this mess and hopefully act as the catalyst for change in a way that individuals have been unable to achieve.
Congratulations on an excellent decision.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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