This year, IPC Swimming, the international federation for para-swimming, will begin a three-year review into its physical and visual impairment classification system. The review comes amid a period of contentious debate in the para-swimming community over the classification standards and process.
Here on our site, the debate has raged stronger than ever. The para-swimming classification system has been, hands-down, the hottest topic of conversation within the SwimSwam community since June. One need only read about the case of Australian swimmer Maddison Elliott at this year’s Worlds to see that the current system is broken. Elliott arrived at Para Worlds in Glasgow classified as a swimmer in the S9 class, swam slower than her best time in her first 100 back of the meet (1:25.42), as a result got moved to the S8 class, where she went significantly faster (1:17.93) and broke the S8 world record.
The International Paralympic Committee revised and approved their classification code in November, and now IPC Swimming is gathering researchers and experts from around the world to figure out how to best serve its Paralympic swimmers.
The process will begin by finalizing contracts with research institutions and conducting interviews with experts, athletes, and coaches to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the current system. The first research area will focus on drag, propulsion, and coordination within the S1-S10 categories.
Research into the visual impairment system (S11-S13) is already ongoing at the Free University of Amsterdam.
Changes in the classification system will be announced periodically as the projects end, but no changes will be made before the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
The statement from Xavier Gonzalez, IPC’s chief executive officer, is printed below. For the full release, click here.
“We have been building towards this review for quite some time and have identified a series of steps that need to be taken in order to strengthen the current classification system. The existing and new research projects will now be carried forward by a project management group featuring athletes, coaches, classifiers and researchers. I hope this review will improve the classification system for all involved in the sport, whilst addressing some of the questions some people have regarding the existing system. To make the review successful we also need the help of National Paralympic Committees and National Federations with the participation of athletes in research, financial contributions to the research projects and value in kind contributions, such as venues for data collection. We want to be open and transparent about the steps that we are taking all along the way, and will provide regular updates not just to the swimming community and the IPC Membership, but also to fans and the media as well.”