World Para Swimming Revises Classification Rules, Process for 2018

World Para Swimming (WPS), the international federation that presides over Paralympic swimming, announced new classification rules effective January 1st late last week.

Para swimmers are classified into various categories to even the playing field within each race. Each swimmer is classified as having either a physical, visual, or intellectual impairment, and undergoes physical, technical in-sport, and technical in-competition assessments to reach a proper classification.

The revisions will mostly affect the technical assessment portion of the classification processes.

“Para swimming, as Para sport in general, is evolving all the time, and so is the knowledge of the technical aspects of the sport,” said International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Medical & Scientific Director Peter Van de Vliet. “This resulted in a revised procedure for the technical assessment, making the water test a more objective and reliable assessment protocol.”

Para swimming has been marred in recent years by cases of intentional misrepresentation (IM). This is when an athlete intentionally makes their impairment seem more severe in order to be put into the wrong disability class.

Among the inconsistent and unusual testing results was that of Australian Maddison Elliot, who was classified as an S9 going into the 2015 IPC Swimming World Championships. Due to her limited ability to kick during her observation race, Elliot was reclassified an an S8. However, later in the meet, she improved upon her 100 back observation time by about eight seconds, thanks to a strong kick. Inconsistent cases like Elliot’s abound in elite para swimming.

New protocol effectively upheaves the technical assessment entirely. The Classification Advisory Group has developed a more comprehensive and objection classification process, tested extensively over the past year and a half.

While the exact details of the process will be illuminated at the upcoming WPS Sport Forum (date TBA), it essentially scores athletes by observing their “swimming behavior,” namely propulsion and drag. This is a shift from the past method, which simply entailed subtracting points from an athlete’s physical score based on a given impairment.

All athletes with physical and/or intellectual impairments will be reassessed after January 1st.

Athletes with intellectual impairments will undergo reclassification based on developments made at the IPC Classification Research & Development Centre at Leuven University in Belgium, which should result in more accurate tests in the Sport Cognition Test Battery.

Click here to read the full World Para Swimming Rules and Regulations book, effective January 1st, 2018. 

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Shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic.
No doubt the IPC will present this as being a major scientific advance in the evolution of classification which of course is preposterous.
Just how, exactly, are these classifiers going to assess drag and propulsion? Just by a quick look I daresay.
This does nothing to address the issue of intentional misrepresentation which is the core issue destroying para swimming and classification will remain unfit for purpose.
These supposed changes are not going to stop the likes of Lakeisha Patterson dragging their legs in the water at classification then kicking very effectively in competition.
Use the money to employ neurologists to weed out the frauds and stop the rot, not to introduce even more garbage into the equation.


Join the discussion


Very well stated Fred, the sport needs to weed out these FRAUDS ASAP!


So after interviews with the times newspaper and BBCradii 4 and the upcoming Parliamentary sub committee hearing the IPC post this. Well if we are being honest about IM then Maddie Elliot and her family should be feeling hard done by, since being reclassified to S9 they have seen the biggest cheats in swimming allowed to continue. Lakeisha Patterson along with the GB pair of Richter and Millward are walking around as if they are untouchable faking the CP limp and hand problems and posting stuff on fb about bullying and making more money from newspapers. The NGB need to suspend these swimmers NOW and pay for independent Medicare reviews as a matter of course. This could be the start… Read more »


Hard done by really ??? I for one think she had been caught out and only time will tell for Latisha Patterson hopefully her time has now run out let’s not forget why gos was started to sort out all the people who are in the wrong class I for one really hope this will help and not the Ipc making look like they are sorting it out


So Mark, are they only going to be interested in UK “athletes” or are you after evidence from other nations as well?
And just to confirm, evidence goes to you at [email protected] ?


It’s all going towards the bigger picture and by getting it to those on the sub committee means it will be recorded and made public. Then those In power in the IPC will have to take some notice
E mail correct


Tully Kearney 1:44 100 free on 4/27 for classification and a 5:37(thats a 1:24 avg!) 400 free on 8/06. Add that one to your list.


I never thought I would see this day come! I have written so many times about this over the years in social media, written to IPC and to the NSO and even sent suggestions that the best way to discover Intentional Misrepresentation of an athlete is to observe them in a major meet that matters or the qualifying meets for major championships. I welcome this wholeheartedly and want to see all athletes who Intentional Misrepresent their disability have the same penalties as doping violations with a minimum of a 4 year ban! Without a penalty and deterrent, this nonsense WILL continue!


I agree , same here as well !


Pass on your info to me then

Leonard Roxon

The comments made here are mine – Leonard Roxon


Very well stated Roxon, As a former private investigator, it is not hard to gather the evidence and the facts; social media is a magnificent tool for today’s investigators. The amount of damning evidence that is out there is unbelievable. These sporting frauds cannot help themselves, when they go out and socialise amongst their family and friends. Especially at night-clubs and hotels, video surveillance footage is so easy to obtain today, than the past. However, the problem lies with those coaches and officials that are also participating in the fraud and that’s where the real problem lies. Especially when some of those officials are in charge of their country’s Para-swimming programmes. If it is found that senior officials are acting… Read more »

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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