2016 RIO PARALYMPIC GAMES
- Wednesday, September 7 – Sunday, September 18, 2016
- Swimming: Thursday, September 8 – Saturday, September 17, 2016
- Olympic Aquatics Stadium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Prelims 9:30 AM / Finals 5:30 PM (local time)
- IPC World Records
- Live stream links: NBC / IPC
Whenever we write articles explaining the fairly-complex International Paralympic Committee classifcation system, we usually point out that within each impairment grouping (S1-S10 for physical, S11-S13 for visual, S14 for intellectual), times generally get faster as the class gets higher.
Swimmers in the S11 class are supposed to have greater vision impairment than those in class S13, for example.
We always pose this as a “usually,” however, because on rare occasion at the international level, that doesn’t hold up.
Such has been the case in the first two days of the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
On Thursday, we saw Australia’s Lakeisha Patterson win the 400 free for S8s in a World Record time of 4:40.44. That swim cleared the record by one-tenth of a second.
Meanwhile, the women’s S9 was won by Spain’s Nuria Marques Soto in 4:42.56, beating another Australian Ellie Cole by .02 seconds.
And that’s not supposed to happen.
The result will raise eyebrows because Patterson has become a lightning-rod for accusations of “Intentional Misrepresentation” (IM) in Paralympic swimming, where athletes are accused of intentionally misrepresenting the extent of their impairments in order to gain access to less competitive classifications.
Patterson took a bronze medal in that same 400 free at last year’s World Championships, but at that meet was 24 seconds slower than she was in her World Record swim on Thursday.
The caveat here is that this was a particularly slow-performing field in the S9 class. Tully Kearney, the defending World Champion, had to pull out with an injury, and Soto dropped 7 seconds from her silver-medal swim at Worlds to win the event on Friday in Rio. The World Record for S9s, held by the famous South African Natalie Du Toit, is still 17 seconds better than Patterson’s swim, and Patterson’s swim was only a tenth faster than the old World Record in her class.
Regardless, the upset in the intended order, which normally might elicit awe at the impressive time by Patterson, will instead draw a furrowed brow in this time of classification uncertainty. While the swimming community has built these concerns to a crescendo since before the London Paralympics, more mainstream publications, including the BBC, have recently begun poking at the story during the period of the Paralympics.