• Sport Classes S/SB/SM1 to S/SB/SM10: physical impairment:
    There are ten different sport classes for athletes with physical impairment, numbered 1-10. A lower number indicates a more severe activity limitation than a higher number. Athletes with different impairments compete against each other, because sport classes are allocated based on the impact the impairment has on swimming, rather than on the impairment itself.
    To evaluate the impact of impairments on swimming, classifiers assess all functional body structures using a point system and ask the athlete to complete a water assessment. The total number of points then determines the athlete’s S and SB sport classes. Due to the different demands of S and SB events, swimmers are often allocated different S and SB sport classes. The SM sport class is calculated from the S and SB sport class.
  • Sport Classes 11 -13: Visual Impairment
    Classes 11-13 are allocated to swimmers with a visual impairment. Class 11 will have little or no vision; Class 12 can recognize the shape of a hand and have some ability to see; Class 13 will have greater vision than the other two classes but less than 20 degrees of vision.
  • Sport Classes 14: Intellectual impairment
    S14 swimmers have an intellectual impairment, which typically leads to the athletes having difficulties with regards to pattern recognition, sequencing, and memory, or having a slower reaction time, which impact on sport performance in general. Moreover, S14 swimmers show a higher number of strokes relative to their speed than able-bodied elite swimmers.



Athletes can have physical, visual or intellectual impairment. There is a classification system and based on the category, Para swimmers can start from the starting platform or from the water, with or without assistance. Persons with visual impairment can also use an assistant called “tapper”, who indicates them the proximity to the wall to finish the race or to turn. Totally blind swimmers must wear blackened goggles at all events. Swimmers with physical impairment cannot wear any prosthesis or orthesis. They compete in the following styles: Butterfly; breaststroke; freestyle in 50, 100, 200 and 400 m; and individual medley in 150 m and 200 m. Relays are also included.


Para swimming is one of the eight sports that has been practiced since the first Paralympic Games held in Rome, Italy 1960, and it is one of the most popular sports. It has been part of the Parapan American Games since the 1999 edition, held in Mexico City.