View Full Version : Swimmer excluded from Paralympics

August 11th, 2013, 12:23 PM
Shaheen, Ayotte Cry Foul Over Exclusion of N.H. Swimmer From Paralympics


CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., are objecting to a decision not to allow a New Hampshire record-setting swimmer to participate in the International Paralympic World Swimming Championships next week in Montreal.

Paralympic officials say Victoria Arlen is ineligible because they don’t believe her disability is permanent...

This article explains a little more:

The dispute stems from a recent medical report that stated if Arlen got years of physical therapy, she might be able to walk again.

Dr. Michael Levy, of Johns Hopkins University, responded to the committee.

"It will take many months to years to get Ms. Arlen back on her feet. I did not mean to imply that Ms. Arlen would be able to walk quickly," Levy wrote. "Please do not misconstrue my plan as a statement of permanence of her disability."

August 11th, 2013, 06:22 PM
Victoria Arlen was one of 3 US swimmers caught in classification controversy at the Paralympics. She was originally deemed ineligible then; decision reversed on protest. Mallory Weggemann and Justin Zook were re-classified - protests dismissed. http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/disability-sport/19429915

It should be noted, minimum impairment for IPC Swimming is quite low. Club feet is eligible. Amputation of half a hand is eligible. Marathon swimmer Susie Maroney would probably have been eligible (she has very mild hemiplegic cerebral palsy)

If a hypothetical swimmer was paralyzed by an illness, then later recovered enough function in their legs to walk (with or without aids), they could still be IPC eligible - so long as, after their recovery, they still met minimum disability criteria (eg have leg muscle weakness). Their classification would change if/when they regained more leg function.

Victoria Arlen was previously competing in the S6 classification. Minimum disability physical impairment is S10. She can improve a lot before she's not disabled enough to compete. It's the "she might improve" uncertainty that's causing a problem. Athletes with fluctuating impairments like MS are usually permanent review classification status. No idea why IPC Swimming didn't go with that option here.

August 12th, 2013, 10:10 AM
This decision about Arlen seems absolutely ridiculous and I cannot imagine how crushed she must be about it.

determinedtri - Have other countries also had athletes caught in classification controversies? (ETA - not trying to imply anyone is out to get the US, just that I have only heard about US swimmers getting caught in it. I'd like to know more about such cases in general.)

August 12th, 2013, 07:10 PM
Reclassifications are not uncommon amongst young or new swimmers with some types of impairment. At least 5 of the swimmers on Australia's 2012 Paralympic team have been reclassified at least once in their career. For example, Matthew Haanapell was originally classified S6, reclassified S7, then re-reclassified S6. 8x S7 gold medalist Jacqui Freney raced at S8 for years, including at the Beijing Paralympics; she was reclassified in 2011. I've been reclassified (and will be reviewed again next year, if I'm not called in earlier).

Closest parallel to the Mallory Weggemann situation - Ukrainian swimmer Bohodayko, IPC Euros multiple gold medalist, was reclassified from S6 to S7 on the eve of the 2012 Paralympics. In his case, tho, think it was probably the right decision. He went on to break Rudi Garcia-Tolson's SM7 200IM world record, and win gold in SB6 breaststroke (people are classified seperately for breast).

Other than Victoria Arlen, don't know of any established para-athletes who have lost eligibility because the IPC questioned the permanency of their impairment. People found ineligible at an international competition - I can think of a number. Jessica Gallagher, Beijing Paralympics, deemed .01 too sighted in one eye. Or the GB thrower Rebecca Chin, entered in F44 (leg impairment), reclassified into F38 (mild cerebral palsy), then found ineligible: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/other_sports/disability_sport/7615106.stm

August 12th, 2013, 10:48 PM

Is there a list somewhere that defines and explains the different classifications (such as S6, S7, etc.)?

Anna Lea

August 12th, 2013, 11:08 PM
At least 5 of the swimmers on Australia's 2012 Paralympic team have been reclassified at least once in their career.

Make that at least 7 of them. Forgot Matt Cowdrey (originally S9/SB9/SM9, now S9/SB8/SM9) and Aaron Rhind (who has swum everything between S6 and S8 - reclassified 4 times, I think). Basically, it happens a lot.

Easy to tell if someone is missing an arm or a leg. Not so easy to tell to what extent a junior with cerebral palsy is physically capable of improving their technique. Not always easy to tell apart impairment and inexperience, and talent and training can make people look superficially less impaired than they actually are.

August 12th, 2013, 11:24 PM
Is there a list somewhere that defines and explains the different classifications (such as S6, S7, etc.)?

LexiDecoder is pretty good:

You are actually classified based on a points system (bench test/water test). The impairments shown are some common profiles that fit each class; they're certainly not the only ways to fit the classes.

Rob Copeland
August 13th, 2013, 08:24 AM
LexiDecoder is pretty good:
http://lexi.channel4.com/swimming.htmlAnother good guide can be found at http://www.paralympic.org/sites/default/files/document/120716152047682_ClassificationGuide_2.pdf

Chris Stevenson
September 27th, 2013, 07:30 AM
Article about this in the NYT.