Classification provides a structure for competition. Athletes competing in Paralympic sports have an impairment that leads to a competitive disadvantage in sport.
Consequently, a system has to be put in place to minimize the impact of impairments on sport performance and to ensure the success of an athlete is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus. This system is called classification.
There are three types of classification: physical (S1-S10), visual (S11-S13) and intellectual (S14).
There are eight different types of physical impairments:
- Impaired muscle power
- Impaired passive range of movement
- Loss of limb or limb deficiency
- Leg-length difference
- Short stature
In addition to athletes with physical impairment, athletes with visual or intellectual impairment are also included in the classification system.
Visual impairment occurs when there is a damage to one or more of the components of the vision system, which can include:
- impairment of the eye structure/receptors
- impairment of the optic nerve/optic pathways
- impairment of the visual cortex
Athletes with an intellectual impairment / learning disability are limited in regards to IQ and adaptive behaviour, which is diagnosed before the age of 18 years.
Once classified, swimmers are allocated a classification status.
Where a swimmer is allocated a classification (S1-S14) they will also be allocated relevant exception codes.
There are a number of conditions that do not meet the eligibility criteria as follows:
- Autistic spectrum
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Ehlers’ Danlos Syndrome
- Learning difficulties
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) including - Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
Please note that this list is not exhaustive, however it provides a guide.
It must be noted that even swimmers who have a diagnosis that meets the eligibility criteria for classification may still not be sufficiently impaired to gain a classification.