World Para Swimming (WPS), the international federation that presides over Paralympic swimming, announced in October 2017 that as of January 1st, 2018, it would implement a new classification system to combat accusations of intentional misrepresentation (IM) within the sport.
Para swimmers are classified into various categories to even the playing field within each race. IM occurs when a less-impaired swimmer intentionally get themselves classified as more impaired then they actually are. Each swimmer is classified as having either a physical, visual, or intellectual impairment, and undergoes physical, technical in-sport, and technical in-competition assessments to reach a proper classification; the new system mostly affects the technical assessment portion of the classification process.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has ruled that all para-swimmers will undergo reclassification before Tokyo 2020, and Great Britain has already begun the process. Great Britain’s Ollie Hynd spoke out about the process, which has led to his recent reclassification.
Hynd, 23, was the 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medalist in the SM8 200 IM, and also won the S8 400m free in Rio. At the Denmark Para Swimming World Series stop in late February, he was reclassified as an S9, meaning he will be racing less impaired swimmers than he previously has (British Swimming already protested, and after a retest, the classification was upheld). He’ll remain SB8 for breaststroke events.
Even in his new class, Hynd will be among the best internationally: his best 200IM and 400 free times from last year would have ranked in the top 5 in the world.
“It is clear that there will be challenges with this and we won’t know the full worldwide implications until maybe next year,” British Swimming Paralympic performance director Chris Furber said. “However, we welcome anything which brings greater consistency to the classification process. “We’ve reacted to the IPC asking for help in a positive way by putting our swimmers through classification at the first opportunity. We don’t want to see us penalized for doing that.”
Other British para-swimmers including Jonathan Fox, Matt Wylie and Jacob Leach were also reassessed and moved to less severe classes, but will be re-evaluated later in the year.
Hynd, as well as Fox and Leach, are scheduled to swim at the upcoming 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Most other NGBs, including oft-accused Swimming Australia, have yet to begin the classification process.