Amy Marren, the 2016 Paralympic bronze medalist in the SM9 200 IM, announced her retirement — in part citing “inconsistency across classifications” — on Facebook last weekend.
“I am so proud of how far Paralympic sport has come,” Marren wrote. “However, there is a long way to go before it becomes a level playing field and this inconsistency across classifications is one reason why I am choosing to step away from a sport I have loved so very much.”
Marren competed in London in 2012, then became a world champion at the young age of 14, when she took gold in the SM9 200 IM at the 2013 IPC World Championships. At the same meet, she took gold in the S9 100m fly and as a member of Britain’s 4x100m freestyle relay and 4x100m medley relay, and silvers in the S9 100m back and 100m free.
In April 2019, she announced she would represent Ireland, rather than Britain, going forward.
For years now, para swimming has been marred by cases of intentional misrepresentation, which occurs when an athlete intentionally makes their impairment seem more severe in order to be put into a lower disability class.
In an attempt to combat that practice, World Para Swimming announced in late 2017 that it would implement a new classification process, which took effect January 1, 2018 – all athletes were required to undergo a new classification test in 2018 (with the exception of a few special cases, which can be found here). The new process quickly led to renewed chaos.
Marren’s retirement announcement is reminiscent of multiple events over the past two years. Among them, in June 2018, another former S9 British swimmer — Matt Wylie — retired after he was classed up to S10. Prior to that, Britain’s Ollie Hynd expressed that he was “heartbroken” after getting classed up from S8 to S9; he successfully appealed and was moved back to S8, but was moved to S9 shortly thereafter.
At last year’s IPC World Championships, multi-time gold medalist Alice Tai, also of Britain, said she “felt bad” for other competitors after getting moved down from S10 to S8 over the span of three years.