Sophie Pascoe: The Para-Swimming ‘Reclassification Saga’ Continues

Paralympic star Sophie Pascoe made a comeback to competitive swimming earlier this year as she competed at New Zealand’s para-swimming open meet. Throughout the meet, Pascoe broke three world records in the S9 class. On day one she set new World Records for both the 50 free (27.32 compared to her prior 27.69) and the 100 back (1:07.41) in the S9 class, all in a timeframe of twenty minutes. Lastly, she set a new world record in the 100-meter freestyle in a time of 59.77, becoming the first female S9 swimmer to break the minute barrier in the 100-meter freestyle.

Prior to this meet, the world-record times were as follows:

  • 50-meter freestyle: 27.69
  • 100-meter backstroke: 1:07.66 (formerly owned by Alice Tai)
  • 100-meter freestyle: 1:00.36

Before the New Zealand Open, Pascoe’s lifetime bests in these events were the following:

  • 50-meter freestyle: 27.69
  • 100-meter backstroke: 1:05.95
  • 100-meter freestyle: 1:00.36

Since her performance at last year’s Para Pan-Pacs, the New Zealand native had been absent from high-level international competition as a result of some surgical procedures.

View this post on Instagram

One bone-less! 👍🏼 #fibula #removal #surgery #amputee #athlete #swimmer #hospitallife #roadtorecovery

A post shared by Sophie Pascoe (@sophpascoe1) on

Pascoe, as stated on her social media post above, had her fibula along with the main nerve removed in an effort to help reduce her pain.

As a result of this surgical procedure, Pascoe joined the ongoing saga of reclassified para-swimmers.

A few weeks ago, we reported that Brazil’s para-swimming ace Andre Brasil had been declassified. Brasil is one of several para-swimmers who have gone through reclassification as a result of the changing to para-swimming classification standards that started scarcely one year ago. This means that Andre Brasil is no longer able to compete in any meets sanctioned by the Brazilian Paralympic Committee nor the International Paralympic Committee.

One further example is Alice Tai. In a span of three years, Tai has been classed down from an S10 to an S9, and from there to an S8. A few days ago, we reported that Tai won the World Series title after breaking several world records in her class.

As we approach the Olympic year, we may see further para-swimmers go through the classification process, which as a side effect may alter both the current world rankings and world records.

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Thought she broke the 100 fly record as well


It’s too stupid now. Between NZL Pascoe & AUS Patterson the S9 class joins the S8 class for controversy & stupidity. Swimmers with major upper limb disabilities (just below elbow amputees for example) have no chance. Sophie Pascoe – Stroke of Fate ‘Everyone who competes at the Paralympics has to meet the classification criteria. But I find it hard to accept when it isn’t obvious what is wrong with you.’ ‘Applying to be reclassified is a catch-22 for me. I’m still at the top of the S10 grade if I went down to an S9 it could be too easy.’ ‘At any major IPC race you can look across at your competition in 4 of the remaining 7 lanes and… Read more »


They have reduced the sport to a swim exhibition instead of a competition. That is how it should be viewed now its a shame the countries are naming national teams and awarding athlete stipends based upon this system.


Sadly, I agree. You can’t fix stupid. Good luck to Ch4 explaining to viewers what’s going on in the pool come September. If Pascoe noted that ‘stragglers’, perhaps to use kinder words her competition or fellow athletes doing their best touched 5s after her in the S10 class what is she expecting in the S9 class?

Miss M

Pascoe was re-classified months ago … seems like strange timing to now try and embroil her in the classification scandal. Many have questioned over the years as to why she was classified as an S10 and wasn’t an S9 – look at the back of her right calf, which is severely scarred as well as her amputated lower left leg.


There is no scandal. She is in the wrong class. It is a classification mistake made by inept classifiers that have created an unfair advantage for her.


Are you saying her powerful flip turns and kick are affected by scar tissue?


Legs are somewhat overrated in swimming, Look instead at the arm span, shoulder flexibility, power and hands. Pascoe has what is needed to be a balanced, efficient and powerful swimmer. That’s the advantage. Very powerful in the water. Beautiful swimmer, has to be said, just wrong class.

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