Special contribution to SwimSwam by Tom Miazga.
Braden sent me a text yesterday to take a look at a comment that was immediately posted after SwimSwam had reported Australia’s Tiffany Thomas Kane’s incredible SB6 100m Breaststroke at IPC Swimming World Championships. Kane, a 13 year-old, is fairly new to the Paralympic Scene but made her presence well-known with an incredible WR performance. With her young age, yes, it is incredibly remarkable and feels similar to a once 13-year old Jessica Long. I won’t deny that a 13 year-old breaking a world record may seem unorthodox, but to comment she was clearly wrongly classed is awfully naive.
I understand that many people currently have their qualms with the classification system and often discuss the topic with trepidation, never knowing who may be listening. With recent discrepancies that have taken place and plenty of experience with the system, I’d be lying if I said I agree the system is flawless. Nonetheless, in Tiffany’s case, her disability and classification is a near perfect fit with the SB6 guidelines. So much so, that to challenge it would be disrespectful to the clear talent she showcased two nights ago.
Briefly, there are classification guidelines that do not provide opportunity for “grey areas”. S6, for instance, is designed for athletes with short stature, hence why dwarfism dominates the class. S11 in similar fashion is for athletes with a complete loss of vision. Either you’ve got it or you are in a different class. Kane, evidently afflicted with dwarfism, is entirely classed correctly. It should be of note that most S6’s stay SB6 for breaststroke as the guideline for the class does not waiver much. Again, the class is dominated by dwarfism, so as the IPC strives to accomplish in the system, everyone is of near abilities.
Finally, watch her race. The amount of water she catches with each stroke is incredibly remarkable. With limited opportunity to reach and stretch the kick as fluidly as possible, her stroke is above and beyond anything I have seen from a SB6 breaststroke. Her timing, head position, and ability to drive both her hands and chest forward deserves far more respect than a frustrated assumption.
Being a Paralmypic swimmer myself, I have never seen any of my teammates as disabled individuals. It can be an interesting site when you gander upon your first race in the Paralympic atmosphere. However, Tiffany’s stroke and talent proves the elite level and dedication that Paralympic swimmers, and athletes in any sport, have towards their passion and dreams.