The 2012 United States Paralympic swim seam departs in the next day for their final training camp in Germany, the home of the International Paralympic Committee.
They will remain in camp until heading to London to take over the Olympic Village and the London Aquatics Centre for the swimming portion of the Summer Paralympics that begins on August 30th and runs through September 8th. Much of this team is used to training together as is; 9 of the 34 members are a part of the USOC resident team in Colorado Springs.
Unlike Olympic swimming, the Americans aren’t absolutely dominant in the Paralympics; in 2008 they led the world with 17 gold medals, but had only 44 total medals (China had 52, the Ukraine 43, and Great Britain 41). Russia was good in Beijing as well, but have really come on strong in the last few years too.
The Paralympic qualification system is a unique one; as compared to the Olympics, rosters are not capped on a “per event” basis. Instead, there is a sliding scale based on the team’s results in past competitions. The Americans had 34 spots, as compared to 36 for Russia, 44 for the Ukraine, 49 for the hosts from Great Britain, and 51 from China.
A smaller roster will leave them at a disadvantage in the overall medal standings, but this year’s squad should be good for plenty of golds, especially on the women’s side.Jessica Longhas been on fire in the last year. Though official lineups have not yet been announced, Long will be favored in as many as 5 individual events, though she holds World Records in several others not on the Olympic schedule.
She will also team up with Mallory Weggemann and Elizabeth Stone in an attempt to defend their 2010 World Championship in the 34-point and under 400 free relay. There’s one slot available on that group, and with the first three, very likely athletes only making up 24 points, American coaches are free to choose their fastest 100 freestyler from all but the visually-impaired classifications.
Also on the team is the rising star of American Paralympic Swimming Victoria Arlen. Outside of the pool she serves as an actress, model, and motivational speaker, and that charisma has made an impression as she’s quickly become a fan-favorite. Multiple World Records already under her belt despite being at the very beginning of her IPC career don’t hurt either. Arlen will be favored to win both the 100 and 400 freestyles in the S6 classification.
The American men won only 4 gold medals in 2008. One of those belonged to Justin Zook in the Men’s S10 100 backstroke. This year he’s back, reclassified to S9 and as the World Record holder. He’s among the best hopes for gold of the American men.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) will be live streaming over 700 hours of live action from London on their website at www.paralympic.org.