History of Disability Swimming
A History of Disability Swimming
The first International Games for disabled people were held in1948 for those with spinal cord related injuries and swimming was a major sport with this event.
At the Paralympic Games swimmers compete in events ranging from 50m to 400m (in some non-Paralympic events both 800m and 1500m are also contested). Prior to the 1990 World Championships swimmers with a physical impairment competed against other swimmers from their own disability group. In 1991 a functional classification system was introduced to enable all physically impaired swimmers to compete against each other regardless of their disability group.
Physically impaired swimmers are assessed for their functional ability both on land and in the water, and then observed in competition. They are then given “S” classification for freestyle, backstroke and butterfly. The lower the “S” number the more severely impaired the swimmer. Swimmers may be given a different “SB” (Breaststroke) or “SM” (Individual Medley) classification dependent on their functional ability.
Swimmers are assessed for their functional ability and compete against swimmers within the same Classification.
The Classification groups are as follows:-
i) Physically impaired Classes: S1 to S10
ii) Visually impaired Classes: S11, S12, S13
iii) Learning disabilities Class: S14
Up to and including the 1988 Seoul Paralympic Games, disability specific organisations within Great Britain were responsible for the co-ordination and performance of elite disabled swimmers. In 1989 the British Paralympic Association (BPA) was formed to co-ordinate, administer and prepare elite disabled sports people for future Paralympic games. The BPA appointed a co-ordinator for each of the Paralympic sports, to assist with the administration and preparation of disabled athletes leading up to and including the 1992 Paralympic Games. The swimming co-ordinator undertook this role on a voluntary basis and adopted a professional and businesslike approach to preparing future GB swimmers.
Following Barcelona 1992 the Great Britain Paralympic Swim Squad (GBPSS) was formed with a responsibility to prepare elite disabled swimmers for future Paralympic games. This body had elected officers and a membership of elite disabled swimmers. Under the guidance of the coordinator and officers a strategy and training programme was implemented. The training and competition programme was financed through funding received from the BPA, sponsorship agreements with BT, and fund raising from the membership of GBPSS.
Since 1997 responsibility for elite performance disability swimming has passed from the BPA (British Paralympic Association now known as Paralympics GB) to the national governing body for swimming.