S8s Beat S9s in Paralympic Peculiarity


  • 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
  • Schedule/Results

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.

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This highlights to a certain extent what a mess it is and the lack of depth in some events. There is no doubt that Patterson trained for that 400 free. But 4:40 is very impressive for a singular neurological impairment so Pattersons cocktail of neuro impairments makes 4:40 unbelievably remarkable. Had she remained S7, her original International classification, she would be the fastest this year by 30 secs. Her time also ranks her 5th as S10, currently. DuToit was an incredible swimmer, better over the longer distances. Cole did not contest the 400 at Worlds. What I fail to understand is, if the Chief classifier can pull anyone at anytime and reclassify if they feel something is wrong, why aren’t… Read more »


Methinks someone has been telling great big porky pies at classification.


The Chief classifier will bury his head in the sand, and completely ignore that many of these swims that are dominating the classes are being swum by people who have no business being in their existing class. Tomorrow night we’ll watch Elizabeth Marks completely out kick the competition with 4 working limbs in breast stroke, going against double amputees. It’s an out right circus. NGBs and IPC need to take a long hard look at the disaster they’ve created by allowing IM cheats to compete. Classification cheating is worse than drug cheating, because EVERYONE can see it, and NO ONE will do anything about it.


Sadly you are probably right. It will be a repeat performance of the Maddison Elliott classification debaucle at World Championships 2015. We are yet to be ‘excited and inspired’ by the performances she will produce over the 50 and 100 freestyle distances.

However, Intentional Misrepresentation is fraud. From what I have seen and read of Lakeisha Patterson in videos and other medias, she falls under the IM umbrella and should be carefully reviewed, now. Her swim was just too incredible to be considered a credible performance for her impairment(s).


Marks just set the Paralympic Record in Breast, 6 seconds faster than the next swimmer. Something is just too fishy when someone is dropped 2 classes and automatically rules the pool!!!!! Classifications need to be changed with amputees vs. amputees. This is an awful mis-representation of the Paralympic movement in swimming.


Its just deplorable . Im deplored .

Steve Long

The Chief Classifier, Craig Nicholson, blocked me from viewing his Twitter account because of a comment I made on swimswam. I never interacted with him on Twitter, but he blocked me anyway. So instead of doing his job, he is blocking his critics.

Here is the article with my comment:

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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