Para swimming

Aquatics It is one of the most popular disciplines around the world. It has been practiced continuously since the 1960 Paralympic Games in Rome and the 1999 Parapan American Games in Mexico City.

Four styles are practiced in Parapan American swimming: freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly. In addition, these are present in the medley events, either individual or relay. All races are held in a 50m pool and athletes can start from three positions: standing on the platform, sitting down or directly from the water.

Sports classification

There are 14 sport classes, indicated with a letter S for freestyle, backstroke and butterfly; with the letters SB for chest events, and with the letters SM for medley events.

Competitors with physical impairments participate in sport classes S1 to S10. Class S11 is reserved for blind swimmers, while category S12 is for those with a field of vision less than a five degree radius.

S13 category is for swimmers who have a mild visual impairment, with a visual field of less than 20 degrees radius.

Finally, the S14 class is for athletes with intellectual disabilities, difficulty with pattern recognition, sequencing and memory, or slower reaction time.


There are prehistoric records that show that man learned to swim to cross rivers and lakes. Stone Age cave paintings have been found in Egypt depicting people swimming. There is also some evidence in ancient Greece and Japan.

The sport was one of the first to join the program since the Rome 1960 Paralympic Games. It debuted at the Parapan American Games in the 1999 Mexico City edition.

In the last edition of the Parapan American Games, the Brazilian Para Swimming delegation won 53 gold, 45 silver and 29 bronze medals.

How do you compete?

Swimmers with some physical, visual and/or intellectual disability participate. Para swimming starts can take place in or out of the water, and the use of prostheses or orthoses is not allowed in all events.

In the case of visual impairment, swimmers in class S11 wear dark glasses to match their condition. In the case of S12 and S13 it is optional. Technical assistants use sticks to touch competitors and let them know when they are reaching the end of the track.

In the Paralympic and Parapan American circuit, they compete depending on the sport class and the styles, in tests of 50, 100, 150, 200 or 400 m.

The rules are the same as Olympic swimming, with some exceptions according to impairment.


When did Para Swimming make its debut at the Parapan American Games?

Check answer

Information for the community

Alberto Abarza, the Chilean swimmer from the Cerrillos district, won three medals at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games: one gold in the 100m backstroke and two silver in the 200m freestyle and 50m backstroke. These achievements are also added to the five medals already obtained at the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games.

Go back to para sports