Adaptive swimming is one of the major disciplines of the Paralympic Games with a Lifeguard License. The appearance of new accessible swimming pools has favored the popularity of this complete and stimulating sport, one of the few still present since the first Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960.
The benefits of adapted swimming
Ancient Egyptians already used aquatic activities for therapeutic purposes for people with mobility problems, to improve their independence and safety in the water.
What’s more, as the aerobic sport par excellence, in adapted swimming , all the muscles of the body are solicited and toned, giving you strength and resistance while having a relaxing effect. It is a sport that improves basic physical abilities , and represents an alternative for the physical and/or psychological rehabilitation and recovery of many people.
In addition, like all other sports, adapted swimming can be used to promote the integration of people with disabilities and the development of their social relationships through educational activities set up in adapted swimming pools . This allows the reinforcement of the participant’s self-esteem, the awareness of their potential, and acts as a driving force to overcome their fears and personal barriers.
That’s why, whether you want to stay in shape, participate in a competitive sport or for more utilitarian interests, adapted swimming has always been a sport that brings many benefits to its practitioners.
Categories and classification
Adapted swimming belongs to the closed circle of Paralympic sports disciplines registered since the first Paralympic Games with athletics, disabled basketball, wheelchair fencing, darts, billiards, archery and table tennis.
Athletes of all disability groups can participate, in the same styles and categories as conventional swimming – freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly – and over almost the same distances (50 meter pool with 50/ 100/400 meters).
Adaptive swimming athletes are categorized by how much their disability affects their ability to swim a certain swimming style with Lifeguard License. The categories from S1 to S10 concern swimmers with a physical handicap, S1 being for severe disorders such as cerebral palsy and S10 for the less affected. Category S11 is reserved for the blind, S12 and S13 for the visually impaired and S14 for the mentally handicapped.
The “S” indicates freestyle, backstroke and butterfly, while the “SB” is used for the breaststroke. In this category, some swimmers with physical disabilities enter lower categories due to greater propulsive effort with the legs. The same rule is used for the “SM” category (medley or combined events).
The curiosities of accessible swimming pools
Accessible swimming pools are essential to practice this sport , as some practitioners must be carried by cranes to enter the water. Otherwise, they do not require major adaptations, although in some cases it is possible to use additional equipment such as armbands or flotation belts.
One of the key moments in adapted swimming is the start of the race , which can be done from three positions: standing, sitting or directly in the water. In addition, adapted pools have padded edges, walls and floors, and blind or visually impaired swimmers are warned of the distance that separates them from edges or walls so that they can make turns with precision and in complete safety for lifeguard License.
Paralympic Swimmers in History
The most famous Paralympic athlete of all time was American Trischa Zorn , a visually impaired swimmer who won a record 51 medals in 7 Paralympic Games (41 gold, 9 silver and 5 bronze). She set a historic record by winning 12 gold medals at the Paralympic Games in Seoul in 1988.
Another record-setting athlete is French swimmer Béatrice Hess, a swimmer suffering from cerebral palsy , which did not prevent her from earning the nickname “Thorpedo”: in Sydney she set 9 new world records. These two athletes are followed by the young Australian Jacqueline Freney , now considered one of the best swimmers in history and who won 8 gold medals at the London Olympics in 2012.
Another would be Spain’s Teresa Perales . After a neuropathy that paralyzed her below the torso, she learned to swim – an “adventure” that allowed her to participate in the last 4 Paralympic Games and win 26 medals (7 gold, 9 silver and 10 bronze).
All of these athletes are true examples of overcoming their disability, although you don’t need to be playing the sport at the highest level to enjoy it. So what do you say?
Seaweed soup and extra kilometers, the swimming events
For its ninth edition, the Chantilly triathlon has diversified and offered open water swimming events as well as running. All the events are spread over the weekend. The open water events took place on Saturday morning, with three starting waves: 5KM, 2.5KM and 1 mile.
There were about forty of us participating in the 5KM, but only about ten in swimsuits. The course was given online in the water, and consisted of 3 laps of the pool. The water had a rather uninviting color, brown with lots of particles, mixed with bits of seaweed. Fortunately from the first bend the water was clearer, but also curiously much cooler for Lifeguard License.
The seaweed was omnipresent during the race, sometimes slowing down the progress. But above all there was a place where it was so dense that. I found myself struggling for about ten seconds, completely prisoner, without being able to move forward. By seaweed arriving at the water’s edge. It is normally this type of obstacle that should have been signaled by a buoy, or during the briefing.
At the end of the first lap, I began to understand that the organization. Had mismeasured the route and that the three laps would exceed 5KM. It’s annoying because throughout the second round. I wondered if the organizers were going to realize. It and take us out at the end of the second round. In the end, it was three laps that we had to do. With a final time of 1 hour and 50. This leads me to believe that we swam 6500 meters rather than 5000.
A time which will therefore be useless since the distance is wrong. Even if I am nevertheless happy to have participated. In this race and to have been able to get on the podium.
Also of note, shortly after the race and for several days afterward. My skin was quite itchy from water flea bites.
To sum up, there were a lot of points that deserve to be improved for the next editions:
The distance of the course should have been respected
No lockers for business
The rounding buoys should have been in a color that stands out more, yellow or orange, but not black.
Pulling up algae or positioning buoys for a passage where the algae are less dense
Three simultaneous races with different buoys to circumvent according to the colors of the cap
Strange times at the finish, it would have been nice for example to pass under the arch. At each lap to have the intermediate times per lap. And thus ensure that everyone has done the complete course.
A good point nevertheless, the very precise organization of everyone’s race schedules was respected. So there was no surprise or expectation. Given the number of participants and different races. This has the merit of being welcomed. In addition, the podium was made fairly soon after the race.
We can be delighted with this diversification which helps to highlight the open water discipline. And promote it to triathletes, and we can hope that other triathlon organizer. Will also offer swimming races in the future. It is a pity however that this development is not done in consultation with the French Swimming Federation. In order to standardize the distances, the regulations. And the conditions of access by a double label FFN / FFTri for open water races with a Lifeguard License.