Paralympic Swimming Performance, Impairment, and the Functional Classification System

in Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly
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The aim was to analyze the relationship between performance and classes of swimmers and between types of physical impairments and medal winners. Participants were 374 swimmers at the 1996 Paralympic Games with six types of impairments: poliomyelitis, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, amputation, dysmelia, and les autres. Data included performance times, gender, classification, swimming stroke and distance, and type of impairment. ANOVA and Spearman rank correlation treatment of data revealed significant differences in swimmers’ mean speeds across classes and positive correlations in swimmers’ classes and swimming speeds in all male and female events; no type of impairment dominated the opportunity to participate, win medals, or advance to the finals. It was concluded that the current swimming classification system is effective with respect to generating fair competition for most swimmers.

Sheng K. Wu is now with the Department of Physical Therapy at China Medical College in Taichung, Taiwan. Trevor Williams (deceased) was with the Department of Physical Education, Sports Science and Recreation Management at Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leicestershire LEU 3TU, United Kingdom.

We wish to thank Anne Green, Doug Williamson, and Steph Wilson for helping with the data collection. Part of this research was presented at the 1997 ISAPA conference in Quebec and at the 1997 European Disability Swimming Championships in Badajoz, Spain.

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