Classification has three components – bench test, water test,
observation & confirmation of the class in competition
Bench testing uses different tests depending on the disability
Only classification completed by IPC Swimming authorised individuals recognised
Individuals should be able to swim 50 metres of at least two strokes with
a correct technique and have been in a structured swimming training
program for approximately 4 years, before being given a permanent status classification
The tests used are based on adult swimmers – particularly coordination
tests can lead to an inaccurate class in younger swimmers
If classified at a young age (eg. Under 17) the swimmer will be
reviewed upon reaching maturity (this depends on the disability)
The classes are based on maximised potential of a swimmer with a disability
There is a wide range of disabilities in a class
Some swimmers appear to be in the “wrong “ class as they are far
behind in the field – this may be due to factors such as poor technique,
training, length of time competitively swimming, age etc – all these
factors have been considered when allocating the class. The individual may
still be developing OR simply not at the top of the field. The same situation
exists in able-bodied swimming.
There will never be a perfect system, one that satisfies everyone. The
range of disability is unending and each person is unique. To make the
sport competitive there are 10 classes for the physically disabled.
(NB:Able-bodied swimmers have a range of physical characteristics and have 1class!).
Not every swimmer with a disability will become a Paralympian or world
class, just as not every able-bodied swimmer will become an Olympian
The most difficult swimmers to classify are those that sit on the
borderline” of a class. The majority of swimmers fit in the middle of a
When swimmers are classified before reaching their full potential – the
classification is based on the predicted maximised or fulfilled potential of
that swimmer. Any improvement that the swimmer makes by training
harder and more effectively should not change the class.
High achieving athletes are often perceived as being in the wrong class
rather than being acknowledged for having talent and being well trained.
Not all disabilities “fit” the system. It is quite possible to be “legally”
disabled and not be allowed to swim in the Paralympics. Some disabilities
cannot be tested under system guidelines – these include but are not
limited to disabilities based on pain, respiratory conditions and cardiac
Some individuals do not fit the system as they are not “disabled”
enough according to system guidelines. There are clear eligibility rules as
to the minimal amount of disability that an individual must have before
being allowed in the system.
The visually impaired or blind are classified using a medically based
approach which involves testing eyesight. There are 3 classes.
Swimmers with an Intellectual Disability are present in class S 14. The
classification procedere depends on a verifyed test.
The system for all swimmers is constantly researched and monitored by