In disability swimming, a functional classification system is used in which swimmers with varying impairments compete against each other in one of 10 classes. In classification research, the criterion most often used to judge validity (fairness) is statistical difference in race performance between adjacent classes. Additional criteria are proposed here. First, the world-record swimming speed should decrease in a predictable manner with decreasing functional class. Second, classes should be clearly discriminated by race performances. To aid in evaluating these criteria, a comparison of the competitiveness (depth of the field) of the classes is made. The criteria were not strictly met in all classes. However, the sprint freestyle events approached fairness, especially for men. The exceptions were more due to a lack of maturity of the sport than to fundamental unfairness. Because of the more complex nature of breaststroke, more problems were observed related to classification fairness in this event.
Daniel J. Daly and Yves Vanlandewijck are with the Faculty of Physical Education and Physiotherapy at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Tervuursevest 101 3001, Leuven, Belgium.
The authors want to thank Anne Green, Chairperson of the IPC Sport Assembly Executive Committee for Swimming, for her expert comments on the text, and to our student An Ver Eecke for her assistance in researching and summarizing performance data.