Tom Miazga has had a front-row seat to the world of Paralympic swimming for more than half a decade. That’s because he was a member of the 2008 Paralympic Team that traveled to Beijing, where he made the finals of the 400 freestyle. This summer, Tom will be with us bringing and insiders viewpoint of everything that goes on at the London Aquatics Centre during the 2012 Paralympic Games. If you have any questions for Tom, about the meet, about para-swimming in general, or anything else you see this week, leave them in the comments sections either of this post or any of our Paralympic posts, and he’ll address them!
All I can say so far is, wow. Day one of ten, and we have already seen 7 world records broken, and TEN Paralympic records! As strong as the US looks thus far, China is already taking control. From what I have already watched, these Games may be one of the most memorable games to date. If you want the whole scoop on what went down in the pool today, be sure to look to the recap that SwimSwam already posted.
Thanks for all the questions thus far, keep it up! Here is a few of what I got today:
This article did a good job of avoiding any mention of the qualification times required. How fast are these swimmers in comparison to able-bodied ones?
All Paralympic swimmers are put into a disability class, ranging from s1-s14. (If you’re confused, read my article from yesterday!) The S1-S10 classes are reserved for those with physical disabilities, 11-13 for visual impairments, and 14 for intellectual. The S1 class contains the athletes who have an impairment that has the greatest impact on their ability to perform strokes, and s10 being the least. If you want to check out the description of each classification, go to this link here. www.paralympic.org/Swimming/RulesandRegulations/Classification.
To answer the question, in the lower classes most athletes are confined to a wheelchair and daily mobility can be difficult. Compared to Olympic swimmers, Paralympic swimmers are very far behind. Remember, however, there are World Records for every classification in every event. (I.E.- there are fourteen WRs in the men’s 50m Free!) So the lower classes (s1-s3) are usually around a minute in the 50m Free. But in the upper classes, especially the S10, don’t be surprised when the winner is getting his Olympic Trial cut (23.49!) It really depends on the class and the event, but Olympic swimmers are considerably faster.
Was there a “suit” controversy in paralympic swimming as well over the last few years?
The Paralympic Swimming Organization is still governed by FINA, meaning the rules regarding tech-suits applied to one and all, Olympic or Paralympic. World records were flying like wildfire in the 2010 Paralympic Swimming World Championships in Eindhoven. For someone who couldn’t use their legs, wearing a full body tech-suit was like racing with a pull-buoy and fins! What is very uplifting to see about Paralympic Swimming however, is the fact that best times are still being dropped by the meet. I mean look at today alone, seven World Records and ten Paralympic Records!
To be able to swim with a disability takes a large sense of adaptability and creativity. Watching Brendan Hansen or Rebecca Soni rip up a 100m Breast shows the epitome of the Breaststroke, but since I have limited leg function and nearly no ability to rotate my ankles, I try and stay as linear with the water as possible. As swimmers learn to adapt to these changes, a new regime of strength is produced and efficiency is greatly increased. Of course everyone is getting faster due to their condition and constant training, but the increase in speed also means the adaptability is increasing as well.
Why was it that our swimmers needed to be re-classified? Weren’t they classified by internationally certified people? Didn’t they swim at international meets?
I appreciate “Coach Peter” for asking this question, because as much as SwimSwam is reporting on the issues, everyone deserves a right to know what is going on. In the Paralympic Swimming rulebook, a NPC (National Paralympic Committee, or an individual country) has the power to protest the class of a swimmer. The chief classifier takes the evidence into account and declares whether or not the swimmer should be “re-classified”. If the swimmer does get re-classified and the classification of the swimmer does change, the swimmer has the right to appeal the protest, which will then be determined by the chief classifier. While I am not over in London myself, it seems apparent that this is a strong possibility of what is happening to a few of the US swimmers. Who is asking for the protests, I have no clue; nor am I about to point any fingers. All I can say is that this is a legal action, as it is stated in the rulebook. It unfortunately is completely out of the control of swimmer, and what follows the protest lies solely on the discretion of the classifiers.
Day 1 was filled with phenomenal action, and I can’t help but smile knowing I am helping pave the movement for more involvement in the Paralympic movement within the US. You, the readers, are providing great questions. Don’t stop! Anything and everything you want to know, I am all yours. Got a burning question or want to learn a little more about me? Follow me on twitter @TomMiazga. Cheer for the US with pride knowing we have one of the best teams in the world representing our behalf!
PS: Want to watch the games live? Tune-in to the online coverage, streaming all day long at Paralympic.org!