Paralympian Amy Marren Retires at 21, Cites Classification ‘Inconsistency’

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.

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2 years ago

S9 is going downhill

Very Confused
Reply to  Ben
2 years ago

Ben, it’s all classes both male and female.

Sophie Pascoe went from 10 to 9 and said she was definitely in the wrong class, did she fight it? No.

Alice Tai S10 down to S8, clearly in wrong class but nothing done.

Tully Kearney S10 to S5, this one is just mind blowing.

Australia- well their list is just too long to write about and after the recent World Series classifications this definitely shows there are major problems in the system. I’m starting to think that whoever designed the new and improved classification system incorporated back in 2018 needs to definitely go back to the drawing board and start afresh.

Reply to  Very Confused
2 years ago

Kearney (like Leanne Smith of the USA who has gone down from S7 to S3) has a well documented progressive neurological condition. Tai has a non progressive condition (bilateral club foot). The two cases are entirely different …

Pick a Lane
2 years ago

For other examples have a look at how many S14 Male WR have been broken in past 12 months by newly classified swimmers. Some of these times would be well placed in able bodied events.

2 years ago

Be just cheats racing cheats soon for the top spots along with a few who have been favourably misclassified. Absolutely meaningless.

2 years ago

Very sad.

Perhaps if the IPC could take it upon themselves to find a moral compass and deal with those who they KNOW to be intentionally misrepresenting their abilities, instead of applauding and enabling them, young athletes – a high percentage of which are female – would not be leaving their sport in droves. To be clear, I am not referring to Alice Tai (who surely must be mis-classed) I am referring to the extremely successful repeat offender Australian Lakeisha Patterson.

The undeniable fact that Lakeisha Patterson is getting away with blatant IM year after year after year proves that the classification system used in Swimming is woefully inadequate, inappropriate and shamefully shambolic. It is time to put… Read more »

M d e
Reply to  Confused
2 years ago

Can someone explain to me this issue, specifically as it relates to Lakeisha Patterson?

How are they faking being more disabled than they are and getting away with it at a relatively high level?

Reply to  M d e
2 years ago

Good question. Here is my tuppence. I may have over simplified because as the old addage goes, if you know one person with CP then you know one person with CP because things can be so different from one person to the other. This though is precisely the reason why CP appears to be the popular disability of choice for IM because it can be played. Classification depends on the honesty of all parties, I don’t think that that can be disputed. Let’s just say then that a hypothetical athlete with a physical profile on paper of Hemiplegic Spastic CP with a clawed hand, elbow contracture and toe walking uneven gait presentation presents for International classification. Our hypothetical athlete attends… Read more »

2 years ago

Folk’s Steve Long stated the following over 12 months ago, and I agree with him 100%; If an athlete wants to compete based on disability, they should waive their privacy regarding that disability. You can’t keep your age private when competing in age group meets. There is no secrecy around how much a person weighs in sports with weight classes. There is also no privacy regarding gender if there are male and female classes. We need the same transparency when it comes to disability classifications.

Reply to  Christian
2 years ago

I agree with this, something similar to the idea behind an ABP? However, how would this address someone like Lakeisha Patterson who obviously got documentation including MRIs & extensive Radiology & Neurologists reports from someone somewhere? We know she must have these because WPS/IPC would have verified them surely. I am still in utter disbelief regarding her self diagnosed Early Onset Parkinsons Disease that didn’t even warrant a slap on the wrist from the IPC.

Very confused
Reply to  Confused
2 years ago

So she gave herself a diagnosis of Parkinson’s that was not medically diagnosed? How could that be accepted by WPS? And how did her NSO allow this to happen?

Reply to  Very confused
2 years ago

6 million dollar questions

2 years ago

Really big problem in Para-Swimming. Pretty much hands athletes like Alice Tai almost automatic victories whilst throwing away over athletes chances.

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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