Para Swimming

Matthew Levy of Australia competes in the men's 100 m freestyle at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. (Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

What's it all about?

You’re gliding along at the speed of light! It’s just you and the water. No one can catch you now, you’re having the time of your life! What are we on about? Why, it’s para swimming of course!

How it's played

Things to watch for

a blind swimmer is tapped on the hear with a pole
Japan's Keiichi Kimura competes during a heat of the men's 200 m individual medley at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/Getty Images)
  • In the swimming events for the visually impaired, athletes will have assistants with long devices called tappers. 
  • They will use these devices to tap on the swimmers' head or back to let them know they are coming close to the end of the lane, the race or that they have drifted into another lane.
a swimmer takes off their prosthetic leg
South Africa's Achmat Hassiem puts his prosthesis back on after competing at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/Getty Images)
  • Athletes have to take off any prosthesis (an artificial body part like a leg or arm) before they start the race. Except an artificial eye, which are permitted during the competition.
  • This way all athletes are relying on their own skills and strength to swim the race.
a row of swimmers use different methods to start the race
Philippines' Ernie Gawilan at the start of Heat 2 of the men's 100 m freestyle at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. (Simon Bruty/Getty Images)
Time to race
  • Because the athletes all have different levels of impairment, they are allowed to start the race from different positions. 
  • They can dive into the water, sit on the platform or start the race already in the water.