Rachael Watson Breaks S4 World Record in 50 Free at Aussie Champs


Portrait of Australian 2016 Paralympic Team member Rachael Watson.

Editor’s note: Australia’s para-swimmers are competing in multi-class events this weekend. That means that the swimmer who touches first, in the fastest time, is not necessarily the event champion. Instead, results are standardized relative to the athletes’ classes and assigned a point value. Swims with the highest point values win.

The women’s 50 free, the very first final of any sort on day 4 of the 2017 Australian Swimming Championships, brought fireworks to the Sleeman Swimming Centre in Brisbane.

There, 25-year old Rachael Watson swam a 37.87 in the women’s 50 free, which earned her a whopping 1136 points and crushed the World Record for S4s in the event. When ratified, the time will eclipse the old record of 39.52 done last year by Mexico’s Nely Miranda Herrera. Herrera was 44-years old at the time of her swim.

In Rio, Watson set the Paralympic record in the event, and already held the Oceanic and Australian Records with a 39.97 from her international debut meet at the 2016 IDM Belin Open.

She won the race over Rio silver medalist Lakeisha Patterson (S8) who touched in 30.34 for a 941 point swim, and Maddison Elliott who was just behind her in 30.36 (939 points). Abigail Lihou took 4th with a 29.07 – a time that earned her 917 points and a world-#1 ranking in the S9 class.

Patterson would win the 200 IM later in the day with a 2:43.59 (867 points), beating out 15-year old Tiffany Thomas Kane, who swam a 3:10.53 (841 points).

In the men’s 50 free, Daniel Fox, an S14, settled his score with Mitchell Kilduff. The two tied as event champion with matching 24.67s at last year’s meet, but this year Fox was the no-doubt victor: finishing in 24.76 to Kilduff’s 25.41.

Rowan Crothers finished 3rd in 24.23 (873 points).

The men’s 200 IM was won by Matthew Levy in 2:37.58. He was almost 18 seconds slower than the runner-up Timothy Disken (2:19.78), but Levy being in the S7 class and Disken in the S9 class meant that Levy’s swim was a mere 2-points better for the title.

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Rachel Watson formerly classed as an S8 now an S4 and a world record holder by a wide margin. Doesnt smell right.


These are always the comments on para swimming. I do not follow para swimming, but it seems to be full of doubters. Makes me uninterested in records for sure. I can’t be the only one….

So what\'s your point TAA?

Just because she was nationally classified as an S8 years ago and swum a little and is now internationally classified as an S4 it doesn’t mean anything is wrong. She didn’t train as a S8 because if she did she would have qualified for nationals, she was classified and just did a few comps here and there. Her specialty is freestyle. Like America’s Leanne Smith who went from S7 to S4, sometimes people might just have a talent. Leanne Smith has a lot of potential too. How was Smith’s times as an S7? Leanne broke the butterfly world record. Yes it’s fast, much faster than the previous one. That is quite amazing. Are you going to critise Arjola Trimi, the… Read more »


My point is that she is 99% in the wrong class and she doesnt have the swimming pedigree of a world record holder. She is probably capable of a 34/35 second 50 free and she should be S7 at lowest. The Leanne Smith thing also looks bad they made her an S3 and she swam a WR in prelims and then they moved her up to an S4 for finals and she set another record. Sorry I dont follow the s1 to s4s that closely so I can’t comment on Trimi. I use Mallory Weggeman as the gold standard for what an athlete in a wheelchair is capable of..she got out her chair and won S8 gold in London. I… Read more »

So what\'s your point TAA?

So as Shonad suggest Watson should be reclassified early well what if she is and then she’s gets an S4 outcome again. Will people still complain? You should take more of interest because Trimi has done some big PB’s and no one questions her.


People will complain whenever a swimmer wins by too large a margin. She will be coached to slow down and just barely win in the future. I google Trimi…I think she is legit. I think we should switch the conversation to Abigail LIhou!!! a huge 1170 pt swim today and has done a 1:02.9 100M fly and there is no way she is legit para. WTH is Australia trying to do.


Medals at any cost and have never heard of integrity. Rounding up able bods and teaching them to swim so they look like they have a disability. And the more they get away with it the more they do it- as we all know it brings them great success.


Australian Paralympian Matt Cowdrey (retired) just explained during Live broadcast that Abigail Lihou contracted GBS – same as Rachael Watson. So she has ended up with a dead leg – but only in water. Interestingly though, there is no significant break in her competition results. According to Cowdrey she could end up being an S10 – how about NE Cowdrey? So yeah TAA, just exactly what are Aus up to? Other than cheating that is. They should be suspended until they can prove they are clean. Another interesting thing is that they have Elliott, Patterson, Leonhardt, Lihou, Greenwood & Ireland who have all made the team on paper but need to be Internationally classified first – 6 swimmers out of… Read more »


TAA – Weggeman has a completely different condition to Watson. Why are you saying she should be S7? On the other conversation, the one about team announcement sportygeek mentioned that an S4 has affected hand function and limited or no use of core and legs. Also saw active hands article which shows hands strapped in gloves indicating poor grip. An S7 has way more function than Watson. TAA Do you have a link to her classification video showing all four strokes? Can Watson get in the pool? Does she sit on the block as the only videos I’ve seen show her in the water. Not exactly sure what is wrong with her classification. Sorry if I sound stupid. I’m new… Read more »


Doesn’t smell right?? It all stinks to high heaven.
The Australians are continuing to ruin para swimming for everyone and it seems they are brewing up a few more very “smelly” ones.
Patterson winning everything with yet another new gait getting around on pool deck, just laughable. No end to the blatant corruption and obvious state sponsored cheating there.


I don’t think Rachael Watson was anything other than S4, never a class S8, I personally know that. She has only been competing for the past 2 years, if that. Swimming was her rehab once she was diagnosed with GBS, since being noticed in the pool by the swim coaches it has been a fairytail story and a well deserved one at that!


Rachael competed at Australian University Games as an S8, before she developed GBS. And there are media articles like these: https://m.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au/news/rachaels-surprise-gold-years-making/3091028/


Even her Australian Paralympic Committee profile says she was previously classified as S8. https://www.paralympic.org.au/athlete/rachael-watson/


Watson took a total 1.88s off the S4 WR today. She broke it twice within 8hrs. She has dropped 2.1s off her classification time less than 1 year ago. Unfortunately for her the Aus Team stinks of cheaters and she’s also coming under the spotlight. She’s 25 and hardly swam at all. She is a developing swimmer in too easy a classification, do the math. I heard they had to fight hard to even get her classified in Berlin. She is improving for sure, she sat unaided on pooldeck today and she’s swimming huge PBs – and not just in freestyle. She swam a massive PB in breastroke. She should be reviewed just to be sure, not in 3 years… Read more »

So what\'s your point TAA?

Haven’t heard anything about the apparent fight for a classification. I’ve seen photos of the Mexican s4 Miranda sitting unaided.


You seem to know her – ask her what happened in Berlin. As for her training, she took a break post Rio and has now smashed the S4 50fr WR – twice within 8hrs.

Classified too early and with far too long a review period – 3 years. She continues to improve physically, there is no doubt about that.

So what\'s your point TAA?

I can’t find any evidence that she look a break after Rio. She has GBS and people reach maximal improvement within a year apparently. It’s been 3 years for Watson so improvement just isn’t possible according to every other GBS case. If she was going to recover she would have two years ago. She has a full time carer according to a website and apparently they do a lot for her so obviously she has a disability from the attack of GBS. What about Leanne Smith? Reclassified from S7 to S3 breaks butterfly world record then reclassified to S4 only to smash the world record. Katie Ledecky smashes world records and no one complains about her. Just because Watson and… Read more »

So what\'s your point TAA?

Instead of saying she’s in the wrong class we should be asking what her training regime is. That should be made public. Also apparently she has a carer who does everything for her. Maybe that’s the difference also in her swimming well. Do the other S4’s have a carer?

Really Shonad?

Shonad – if there was this so call fight you speak of, then they wouldn’t have sent her. There was no fight, I know Rachael, she is a friend of mine and she said there was absolutely no issue whatsoever. You have to submit documentation at least 6 weeks prior so that they can review it! You need to stop making things up about the Australian swimmers. I don’t know what your problem is. Unless you know them then none of your comments hold any value. You are being hurtful to at least 10 swimmers and you need to stop.


Swimming Australia are getting away with it because a complaint was raised with the IPC concerning Lakeisha Pattersons classification way back in 2014. This was raised again in 2016 prior to Rio PGames, this time with video evidence proving with out a doubt that she cheated during her classification and was fully supported by Aus staff. The IPC dismissed it. Presumably there is some sort of ‘arrangement’ there as this time lawyers were involved and even they realised what was going on. The same SAL staff are still involved and Aus are still churning out questionable swimmers. As for Lihou? An accomplished age group swimmer, now a funded S9 (as of Dec 2016) with a ‘Patterson’ dead leg and no… Read more »


So, 9 year olds who race only in school meets should be internationally classified? And 60+ year old Masters swimmers should be internationally classified? (Yes, many Australian school swim meets – even primary/elementary school meets – have multi-class events for swimmers with disability. There are multi-class events at World Masters Games. Masters Swimming Victoria says they are introducing MC events, too).

I get the issue, but young children and Masters swimmers are never going to get near the medical team at the AIS.


Fair point. What do you suggest? It cannot go on like this. Look at the ever growing list – Elliott, Patterson, Fowler/Reid, Lihou, Leonhardt etc.. It will never end because the IPC refuse to be tough with Australia – for whatever reason and Australia continue to shake a tree, see what comes out and if it doesn’t fit they make it fit. Something has to be done. They should actually be suspended.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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