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
The teams: Teams of four swimmers compete in the medley and freestyle relay races. Otherwise, para swimming is an individual sport, meaning it’s done alone.
The skill: Swimmers use the power of their entire bodies to propel themselves as fast as possible down the long pool lanes. Get the gold by swimming faster than anyone else!
The equipment: Swimming caps and sleek bathing suits help with speed in the water. Swimmers with visual impairments must wear blacked-out goggles. (Check out the photos below!)
The classes: There are 14 classes: 1-10 for athletes with physical disabilities, 11-13 for visual impairments and 14 for intellectual disabilities.
The styles: Freestyle, butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and medley are all types of swimming styles you will see in competition in para swimming!
The athletes: They need explosive power for short races and lasting energy for longer ones! Swimmers really need to focus and stay balanced to keep in their own pool lanes.
Did you know: It’s not against the rules if a swimmer accidentally swims into a competitor’s lane! If the lane is empty, the athlete can just stay there or return to their original lane. It’s only a problem if the swimmer gets in the way of the performance of their fellow competitors — they can be disqualified!
Things to watch for
- 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.
- 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.
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.