images of Swimming

Paralympic Sports


Swimming was one of eight sports practiced at the first Paralympic Games in 1960 and is now one of the most popular.


Paralympic swimmers at Tokyo 2020 will compete in freestyle, backstroke, butterfly, breaststroke and medley events. To ensure that competition is as fair as possible, athletes are grouped according to their functional ability to perform each stroke in a process known as ‘classification’.

Athletes can have a physical, visual or intellectual impairment. The rules of World Para Swimming use the rules of the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA) as a starting point which are then modified including- allowing various starting positions and ‘tappers’ for those with vision impairments where required. No are prostheses allowed in the pool.

Para swimming is second only to para athletics in the number of athletes participating at the Games. The wide variety of swimming styles embodies the Paralympic Motto, Spirit in Motion, reflecting the strong will of every Paralympian.

International Paralympic Sport Federation: World Para Swimming(Open in a new window)

Event Programme

  • 50m Freestyle S3 (Men)
  • 50m Freestyle S4 (Men/Women)
  • 50m Freestyle S5 (Men)
  • 50m Freestyle S6 (Women)
  • 50m Freestyle S7 (Men)
  • 50m Freestyle S8 (Women)
  • 50m Freestyle S9 (Men)
  • 50m Freestyle S10 (Men/Women)
  • 50m Freestyle S11 (Men/Women)
  • 50m Freestyle S13 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Freestyle S3 (Women)
  • 100m Freestyle S4 (Men)
  • 100m Freestyle S5 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Freestyle S6 (Men)
  • 100m Freestyle S7 (Women)
  • 100m Freestyle S8 (Men)
  • 100m Freestyle S9 (Women)
  • 100m Freestyle S10 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Freestyle S11 (Women)
  • 100m Freestyle S12 (Men/Women)
  • 200m Freestyle S2 (Men)
  • 200m Freestyle S3 (Men)
  • 200m Freestyle S4 (Men)
  • 200m Freestyle S5 (Men/Women)
  • 200m Freestyle S14 (Men/Women)
  • 400m Freestyle S6 (Men/Women)
  • 400m Freestyle S7 (Men/Women)
  • 400m Freestyle S8 (Men/Women)
  • 400m Freestyle S9 (Men/Women)
  • 400m Freestyle S10 (Men/Women)
  • 400m Freestyle S11 (Men/Women)
  • 400m Freestyle S13 (Men/Women)
  • 50m Backstroke S1 (Men)
  • 50m Backstroke S2 (Men/Women)
  • 50m Backstroke S3 (Men/Women)
  • 50m Backstroke S4 (Men/Women)
  • 50m Backstroke S5 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Backstroke S1 (Men)
  • 100m Backstroke S2 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Backstroke S6 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Backstroke S7 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Backstroke S8 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Backstroke S9 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Backstroke S10 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Backstroke S11 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Backstroke S12 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Backstroke S13 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Backstroke S14 (Men/Women)
  • 50m Breaststroke SB2 (Men)
  • 50m Breaststroke SB3 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Breaststroke SB4 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Breaststroke SB5 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Breaststroke SB6 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Breaststroke SB7 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Breaststroke SB8 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Breaststroke SB9 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Breaststroke SB11 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Breaststroke SB12 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Breaststroke SB13 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Breaststroke SB14 (Men/Women)
  • 50m Butterfly S5 (Men/Women)
  • 50m Butterfly S6 (Men/Women)
  • 50m Butterfly S7 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Butterfly S8 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Butterfly S9 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Butterfly S10 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Butterfly S11(Men)
  • 100m Butterfly S12 (Men)
  • 100m Butterfly S13 (Men/Women)
  • 100m Butterfly S14 (Men/Women)
  • 150m Individual Medley SM3 (Men)
  • 150m Individual Medley SM4 (Men/Women)
  • 200m Individual Medley SM5 (Women)
  • 200m Individual Medley SM6 (Men/Women)
  • 200m Individual Medley SM7 (Men/Women)
  • 200m Individual Medley SM8 (Men/Women)
  • 200m Individual Medley SM9 (Men/Women)
  • 200m Individual Medley SM10 (Men/Women)
  • 200m Individual Medley SM11 (Men/Women)
  • 200m Individual Medley SM13 (Men/Women)
  • 200m Individual Medley SM14 (Men/Women)
  • 4x100m Freestyle Relay 34 Points(Men/Women)
  • 4x100m Medley Relay 34 Points(Men/Women)
  • Mixed 4x50m Freestyle Relay 20 points
  • Mixed 4x100m Freestyle Relay S14
  • Mixed 4x100m Freestyle Relay 49 points


Adaptations to achieve excellence

Events can begin in a variety of ways. While freestyle, breaststroke and butterfly races usually commence from a starting platform, athletes can already be in the water if they would have difficulty making a diving start.

Events that start in the water, including backstroke, usually begin with athletes holding the grip. Athletes in these events can use an aid such as a belt or start while holding a rope or towel in their mouth if it would be difficult to hold the grip due to a physical impairment.

The same applies to the finish and turns where athletes participating in breaststroke and butterfly races are permitted to touch with a part of their upper body depending on their impairment.

Athletes also adapt their technique to compensate for their impairment. For example, athletes who are unable to kick due to lower limb paralysis will compensate with upper body muscle strength and movement. Athletes with an arm or leg impairment will seek to achieve a streamlined position to minimise water resistance and maintain balance.

Some athletes with vision impairments may have difficulty swimming in a straight line. Athletes develop their own techniques to maximise their performance.

To ensure the safety of athletes who are visually impaired they are required to have an assistant, known as the tapper, to help as they approach the turn(s) or finish of the race. This process is called tapping, in which the assistant taps the athlete's head or body with a tapping device. Swimmers with a high loss of vision are also required to wear blackened goggles in all their events.

Intellectually impaired athletes do not need adaptations, as through repetitive practice they learn pacing and race techniques.


Breaking records and improving techniques

Swimming has produced a number of star performers who have competed in several Paralympic Games or won multiple medals at a single Games.

Brazil's Daniel Dias tapped into the support the of local crowd at the Rio 2016 Games to win a total of nine medals, including four golds. Dias has won a total of 24 medals at three consecutive Games, the largest haul of any male Paralympic swimmer. In 2016, he received the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability for a record third time.

Another of the world's most decorated swimmers is American Jessica Long, who has won a total of 23 medals, including 13 golds, at four consecutive Games since Athens 2004. Her tally includes a total of six medals at Rio 2016.

Several long-standing world records were broken in vision impairment classes at Rio 2016. Bradley Snyder (USA) beat a 30-year record in the men's 100 metres freestyle, while Anna Stetsenko (Ukraine) smashed a 20-year-old time in the women's 50 metres freestyle.

Expect to see more incredible record-breaking performances at Tokyo 2020.



During the race if a visually impaired athlete inadvertently enters another swimmer's lane, will they be disqualified?


A:If the lane is empty, the swimmer can continue using that lane. Or the swimmer's tapper can give instructions to return to the assigned lane. Only if the swimmer interferes with another's performance will they be disqualified.

As of 7 Nov. 2019

Competition Venues

  • Tokyo Aquatics Centre

Olympic Sports

Paralympic Sports