2020 Tokyo Paralympic Swimming Previews: 5 Non-American Women to Watch

2020 Tokyo Summer Paralympic Games

Two large European Para-swimming meets this year (the Para European Championships in Madeira and World Para Series) give us insight into the biggest races of Tokyo Paralympics which start in less than 3 days.

Explanation of Para Classification System

  • There are 14 classifications for Paralympic swimmers, typically denoted as “S” followed by a number.
  • “SB” designates an athletes classification for breaststroke events
  • “SM” is for individual medley events
  • Athletes with physical impairments are classified in S1-S10, SB1-SB9, and SM1-SM10 with numbers 1-10 ranging from more severe activity limitations to less severe limitations.
  • Athletes with visual impairments are classified in S/SB11-13.
  • Athletes with intellectual impairments are classified in S/SB14.

1. Sophie Pascoe, NZ – Two-time Paralympian and 15-time Paralympic medalist Pascoe is the defending Paralympic champion in the S10 100 back, S10 100 fly, and SM10 200 IM.

 Out of both Paralympics she has participated in, she is undefeated in the 100 fly and 200 IM. She kept that momentum up after Rio and won 4 gold medals at the 2019 World Championships in the S9 50 free, S9 100 free, S9 100 back, and S9 100 fly.

She will be a huge gold medal contender in Tokyo while racing some of her World Record-holding events in Tokyo including the 100 free and 200 IM.

Events in Tokyo:

  • 100 free – S9
  • 100 back – S9
  • 100 breast – SB8
  • 100 fly – S9
  • 200 IM – SM9

2. Carlotta Gilli, ITA – 20-year-old Gilli is the defending world champion in 4 events in S13: the 50 free, 100 free, 100 back, and 200 IM.

This will be her Paralympic debut but she recently won the 100 free, 100 back, 100 fly, and 200 IM at the 2020 Para European Champs in Portugal.

Gilli’s 100 back World Record was recently taken down by USA’s Gia Pergolini at the U.S. Paralympic Trials in June. They are ranked 1-2 in the world this year, setting up a tight race in Tokyo.

Events in Tokyo:

  • 50 free – S13
  • 400 free – S13
  • 100 back – S13
  • 100 fly – S13
  • 200 IM – SM13

3. Li Zhang, CHN – Li is the reigning Paralympic champion in 3 S5 events: 50 free, 100 free, 200 free. She was just shy of the podium in the 200 back and 100 breast in Rio where she placed 4th.

The only event out of those 3 that she is set to swim in Tokyo, however, is the 100 free. Zhang’s biggest competition will be World Record-holder Teresa Perales of Spain who took silver in Rio but has won the event three times on the Paralympic stage.

23-year-old Zhang was part of China’s gold-medal-winning 4×50 free relay at the 2019 World Championships.

Events in Tokyo:

  • 100 free-S5
  • 200 free-S5
  • 50 back-S5
  • 100 breast sB4

4. Jessica-Jane Applegate, GBR – Applegate is entering Tokyo 2020 with the chance to podium in the S14 200 free for 3 Paralympic Games in a row. She won gold in 2012 and followed that up with silver in 2016.

Her countrymate Bethany Firth has the fastest time this year and Applegate’s victory at the Para European Championships ranks her 2nd in the world this year.

Applegate also won silver in Sm14 200 IM  and bronze in S14 100 back in 2016. She will contest them both again in Tokyo.

Events in Tokyo:

  • 200 free – S14
  • 100 back – S14
  • 100 fly- S14
  • 200 IM-SM14

5. Nora Meister, SUI – 18-year-old Meister will be making her Paralympic debut after breaking multiple World Records this year. She cracked the S6 400 free world record at the Para European Championships and the S6 200 back by 3 seconds at the WPS World Series Finale.

Meister has had international success before then, though, She won 2 bronze medals at the 2019 World Champs in the S7 400 free, S7 10 back. 

She recently claimed victory in 2 events at Para European Champs in Portugal (S6 400 free, S6 100 back, and then silver in S6 100 free.)

Events in Tokyo:

  • 50 free- S6
  • 400 free – S6
  • 100 back – S6
  • 50 fly – S6

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1 year ago

This will be Sophie Pascoe’s 4th Paralympics – she has medaled in each one since Beijing ‘08, including gold in the 200 IM at each of her three previous Paralympics

Miss M
Reply to  Kiwi1
1 year ago

And weirdly, because of her reclassification she’s not the defending champion in her events! Looking forward to seeing her swim, and hoping Ellie Cole can put up a fight for some close races.

Last edited 1 year ago by Miss M

About Annika Johnson

Annika Johnson

Annika came into the sport competitively at age eight, following in the footsteps of her twin sister and older brother. The sibling rivalry was further fueled when all three began focusing on distance freestyle, forcing the family to buy two lap counters. Annika is a three-time Futures finalist in the 200 …

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