Paralympic Champion Matt Wylie will retire from swimming after being classed up from S9 to S10, British Swimming announced Wednesday.
Wylie, only 21, was the S9 50 free gold medalist in Rio in 2016. He set his first British record in 2012, at the age of 15, and current holds three.
“The decision to retire has been something I have thought long and hard about over the last few weeks,” Wylie said, per British Swimming’s release. “The process of going through a change in classification has drained me of my passion for the sport that I held so close to me.
In late 2017, World Para Swimming announced that it would implement a new classification process, which took effect January 1, 2018 – all athletes are required to undergo a new classification test in 2018 (with the exception of a few special cases, which can be found here). This new process is meant to combat intentional misrepresentation (IM), which occurs when an athlete intentionally makes their impairment seem more severe in order to be put into a lower disability class.
Under the new system so far, an inordinate number of athletes, some more high-profile than others, have been reclassified – both up and down. You can read more about the chaos here.
In his new classification, Wylie said that he would be unlikely to make the top 8 at international events, let alone the podium. His sentiment echoes that of fellow Brit Ollie Hynd, who recently expressed that he was “heartbroken and confused” about getting reclassed from S8 to S9.
“Matt has made an enormous contribution to para-swimming. He is one of the most professional and dedicated athletes I’ve ever had the privilege of working with,” said Chris Furber, national performance director for British Para-Swimming. “Classification is a key part of all para-sport, and whilst we respect and support Matt’s decision he will certainly be missed by the athletes, coaches and staff on the team.
Wylie will now pursue a law degree, but hopes to mentor young swimmers in the sport.
“British Para Swimming and UK Sport have provided me with much needed support and guidance, helping me achieve my dream of representing my country at a Paralympic Games in Rio 2016. Representing my country at such a prestigious event will be a memory I keep close to my heart forever,” he said. “For me achieving this goal has been the greatest achievement in my life to date.”