U.S. Paralympics Swi... Features 5 Things To Know Bef...

5 Things To Know Before The Tokyo Paralympic Games

Aug. 24, 2020, 4:05 p.m. (ET)

Silver medalists McKenzie Coan, Elizabeth Smith, Jessica Long and Michelle Konkoly celebrates on the podium at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games  on Sept. 15, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Swimming is one of eight sports practiced at the first Paralympic Games in 1960, and still remains one of the most popular. At the 2016 Paralympics, swimming participation was second to only track and field. With just one year until the Tokyo Paralympic Games, make sure you’re up to date on the top five things you need to know before the Game! 

1. Types

The Paralympic Swimming program is almost identical to the Olympic one, each event consisting of variations of distance and classification. Additionally, Paralympic swimming includes the Individual Medley, during which one individual swims all four strokes! 

2. Classifications

The purpose of classifications in Para sports is to minimize the impact of impairments on the outcome of competition. Paralympic swimming consists of three categories of classifications, and each category is broken down by event type. When it comes to the numbers attached to classifications, lower numbers indicate a more severe impairment, and higher numbers are assigned to less severe impairments. 


S: freestyle, butterfly & backstroke events
S1-S10: physical impairment
SB: breaststroke
SB1-SB9: physical impairment
SM: individual medley
SM1-SM10: physical impairment


SB14: intellectual impariment


S/SB11-13: vision impairment
SB11: very low visual acuity and/or no light perception
SB12: higher visual acuity than athletes in SB11
SB13: have the least severe vision impairment

3. Qualification

Due to the postponement of the Games and the COVID-19 pandemic, team trials were rescheduled. U.S. Paralympic Team Trials will now be held in Minneapolis on June 17-20, 2021. 

4. The Team

Team USA looks to continue competing in a dominating fashion. The team, a mixture of 
returning veterans and promising newcomers, captured more than 50 medals at the 
Lima 2019 Para Pan Games last September.

5. Things To Watch For

The second-most decorated Paralympian in U.S. history, Jessica Long aims to qualify for her fifth Paralympic Games and add to her historic 23 Paralympic medal wins. Long still remains the youngest competitor to compete at the Paralympics for Team USA, making her debut at age 12 in 2004. Long is a three-time recipient of the ESPN Best Female Athlete with a Disability ESPY Award and previously named to Sports Illustrated’s “The World’s Best Female Athletes.”