Para swimming has the second largest number of participants in the Paralympics, behind only track and field. At the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Team USA won 14 gold medals and 37 overall medals in swimming. Both totals ranked 4th among all nations, behind China, Ukraine, and Great Britain.



Paralympic swimming classifications are determined by multiple factors, including limb difference and limb length, muscle power, nervous system function, joint function, range of motion, physical stature, and a technical assessment in the pool. All of these factors are crunched into a point total; the lower the point total, the greater the degree of impairment.

Classification scales vary among different strokes, so each competitor may have up to three separate classifications: an “S” rating for the freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly; an “SB” rating for the breaststroke; and an “SM” rating for medley (or multistroke) events.

For details on the point system, classification procedures, and so forth, see World Para Swimming’s Classification Rules and Regulations handbook. Classifications breakdown as follows:


Individual medley classifications are calculated based on the athlete’s S and SB classifications. The calculation is rounded to a whole number. For example, a calculation resulting in 6.5 will be rounded up to an SM7 classification.

For an overview of the sport, see the Tokyo 2020 Para Swimming page.

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