Sports Summary

Since the first Paralympic Games in Rome, Italy, in 1960, Para-swimming has been a feature of the Paralympic program. Like the Olympic Games, competitors measure their skills in backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle and medley events.

Male and female athletes with a physical, vision or intellectual impairment are eligible to compete. Athletes are classified based on their functional ability to perform each stroke.

The International Swimming Federation’s rules are followed with a few modifications, such as optional platform or in-water starts for some races, and the use of signals or ‘tappers’ for swimmers with a vision impairment. No prostheses or assistive devices are permitted.

Get involved in Para-sport: register your interest today!


Events & Disciplines

Athletes can contest the 50m and 100m backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly, 50m, 100m, 200m, 400m, 4x50m and 4x100m freestyle, 150m and 200m individual medley, and 4x100m medley.


Who is eligible to compete in Para-swimming?

Intellectual Impairment Yes
Physical Impairment Yes
Vision Impairment Yes

What is an intellectual impairment?

An intellectual impairment is a limitation in intellectual functioning and adaptive behaviour as expressed in conceptual, social and practical adaptive skills, which develops before the age of 18.

What is a physical impairment?

A physical impairment is an impairment affecting the physical body and relates to one or more of the conditions listed below:

  • Ataxia
  • Athetosis
  • Hypertonia
  • Impaired muscle power
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Leg length difference
  • Limb deficiency
  • Short stature

What is a vision impairment?

A vision impairment is an impairment of the eye structure, optical nerves or pathways, or visual cortex, which impacts the vision in both eyes.

What are the classes?

Athletes are classified based on their functional ability.

Athletes are given classifications with the prefix ‘S’ for backstroke, butterfly and freestyle events, ‘SB’ for breaststroke events and ‘SM’ for medley events.

S1-10, SB1-10, SM1-10 Athletes with a physical impairment
S11-13, SB11-13, SM11-13 Athletes with a vision impairment
S14, SB14, SM14 Athletes with an intellectual impairment
Not Eligible (NE) Does not have an eligible impairment type and/or meet the minimum impairment criteria for Para-swimming

For more information, view the Para-swimming Classification Information Sheet (updated Nov 2019)

How do I get classified?

Intellectual Impairment Find out more about seeking a Para-swimming classification.
Physical Impairment Find out more about seeking a Para-swimming classification.
Vision Impairment Find out more about seeking a Para-swimming classification.

Classification Masterlist

Swimming Australia manages the National Para-swimming Classification Masterlist. This list includes athletes who have been classified in accordance with World Para-swimming Classification Rules and Regulations, Paralympics Australia’s Classification Policy and Swimming Australia’s classification policy.

Rules & Equipment

Athletes are required to wear a bathing suit that does not aid their speed, buoyancy or endurance.

Swimming caps and goggles are permitted.

Medal History

Year Gold Silver Bronze total
2016 9 10 10 29
2012 18 7 12 37
2008 9 11 9 29
2004 6 14 15 35
2000 14 15 21 50
1996 16 16 12 44
1992 10 12 13 35
1988 5 12 14 31
1984 20 30 24 74
1980 1 8 2 11
1976 3 5 2 10
1972 1 3 5 9
1968 5 5 1 11
1964 9 2 2 13
1960 2 0 0 2


We encourage those wishing to explore Para-swimming to contact their state federation in the first instance. The national federation link below provides information on the national high performance program leading to competing internationally and at the Paralympic Games.

National Federation
Organisation Website
Swimming Australia
State Federations
State Organisation Website
NSW Swimming NSW
NT Swimming NT
QLD Swimming QLD
SA Swimming SA
TAS Swimming TAS
VIC Swimming VIC
WA Swimming WA