Trischa Zorn-Hudson is the most decorated Paralympian of all time. (Photo: Getty Images)
Para Swimming legends will now have a chance to be honored alongside the best Olympic swimmers in the world.
That is in part due to a monumental decision by the International Swimming Hall of Fame to include Para swimmers among their nominees.
“We want to honor the achievement of athletes on an international and Paralympic level,” said Brent Rutemiller, President and Chief Executive Officer of the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF). “There’s enough history behind those athletes that they’ll be able to become eligible for induction.”
Rutemiller added that ISHOF was following the lead of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee when it added “Paralympic” in the name.
“It’s all part of the family,” he said.
The organization features eight different aquatics categories, and the Paralympics will bring that number to nine. Rutemiller said the hall of fame will announce nominations for what could be its first class with Para swimmers in May. Individuals can nominate swimmers on ISHOF.org, and athletes will remain on the ballot for 10 years.
Athletes are eligible for a spot in the ISHOF by a number of criteria, including the number of Paralympic and World Championships medals they have, and World Records they set. Athletes must be retired from international competition for five years, but they can still compete at the national level.
In late 2018, the ISHOF merged with Swimming World Magazine to keep its “history alive.” Rutemiller oversaw the merger and remains the owner of Swimming World Magazine. The magazine and its multimedia properties have plenty of experience covering Paralympic swimming.
“We’ve been covering Paralympians for a long time,” he said. “We actually had reporters in Rio staying after for those Games. We’re giving that category of athletes the exact same weight.”
The ISHOF will also welcome Paralympic swimming coaches on the ballet, similar to their Olympic counterparts.
Rutemiller said the decision to include Para swimmers was unanimously approved by board members of the swimming hall of fame last May, and he said it was a well-received change.
“As a nation, I think we want to take leadership in those areas,” Rutemiller said. “People are applauding this decision. We got emails from all points around the globe supporting this decision.”
ISHOF staff will choose experts to vote on the nominations after they are received. Its panel of 55 experts includes 10 from the diving community, 10 from artistic swimming, 20 open water experts, and five from the Paralympic world. Each expert will focus on the area in which they are most connected with, including the new focus on para swimmers.
“I think we live in a time where there’s just more awareness and appreciation for people overcoming challenges,” Rutemiller said, explaining the change.
The ISHOF Museum is currently undergoing renovations. The renovations were announced in January and will include $45 million worth of upgrades.
The museum was built in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in the 1960s, and the new modifications will replace the museum with an impressive five-story building. Notably, the fourth floor will overlook a 27-meter diving tower and a multilevel museum of exhibits. A restaurant on the top floor will feature views of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Fort Lauderdale Aquatics Complex has hosted events with such athletes as Mary T. Meagher, Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin.
Rutemiller said he is looking forward to including and recognizing the journeys of all athletes going forward.