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Para Swimming

We are proud to be fully integrated sport and committed to offering Para swimming at our clubs and competitions.

Classification Information

There are 14 different classifications at the Paralympics, but there are also some additional classifications that we offer in New Zealand that reflect other opportunities for swimmers with a disability offered internationally. Learn about the classifications offered in New Zealand

S = suffix for freestyle, backstroke and butterfly events

SB = suffix for breaststroke events

SM = suffix for individual medley events

Paralympic Classifications

Learn more about the 14 classifications within the Paralympic pathway. There are three impairment groups - physical, visual and intellectual.

Physical Impairments

S1 – S10, SB1 – SB9, SM1 – SM10

There are ten classifications for physical impairment, where the impact of the physical impairment is assessed using a points system to evaluate the impact upon their swimming. The assessment involves all functional body structures and a pool assessment.

The classifications are deemed the lower the number, the more severe the impairment upon the athlete’s swimming.

Vision Impairments

S11 – S13, SB11 – SB13, SM11 – SM13

S11 = athletes have a very low visual acuity and/or no light perception. All athletes must wear blackened goggles in competition and have a tapper.

S12 = athletes have a higher visual acuity than athletes competing in the S11 class and/or a visual field of less than 5 degrees radius. They may choose to use a tapper.

S13 = athletes have the least severe vision impairment eligible in Paralympic sport. They have the highest visual acuity and/or visual field of less than 20 degrees radius. They may choose to use a tapper.

Intellectual Impairments

S14, SB14, SM14

Swimmers have an intellectual impairment, which typically leads to the athletes having difficulties with regards to pattern recognition, sequencing, and memory, having a slower reaction time, which impact on sport performance in general.

Additional Classifications

These three classifications have recently been added to Swimming NZ events to align with opportunities available for competition internationally. These will be offered for the first time in NZ at the 2023 Apollo Projects NZ Short Course Swimming Championships.

S15 – hearing impairment of at least 40dB (decibel) or greater in their better ear. The international pathway is via the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf.

S18 = Down Syndrome or intellectual impairment (S14) combined with a physical impairment.

S19 = Autism diagnosis

The international pathway for S18 (known as II2) and S19 (known as II3) is the Virtus pathway, alongside S14 (known as II1).

Multi-Class Racing

All competitions in New Zealand utilise multi-class racing. This enables swimmers of different classifications to race against each other. Times swum in the pool are converted to World Para Swimming (WPS) points in comparison to the respective classification world record, to compare results across classifications. The placings from the races are then awarded to the swimmer with the highest number of WPS points.

Racing Opportunities for Para Swimmers

There are racing opportunities for Para swimmers across the country, from club, regional and national level, as well as international pathways. We are proud to offer relays for Para swimmers at some of our national events also. Please refer to the event information book for more details.

Get In Touch

If you’d love to learn more about classification or have any questions about Para swimming, please reach out to our Disability & Para Swimming Participation Manager, Cameron Leslie. Send him an email via

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