Classification provides a structure for competition. Athletes competing in Paralympic sports have an impairment that leads to a competitive disadvantage in sport.

Consequently, a system has to be put in place to minimize the impact of impairments on sport performance and to ensure the success of an athlete is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus. This system is called classification.

There are three types of classification: physical (S1-S10), visual (S11-S13) and intellectual (S14).

Ten eligible impairments

There are ten different types of impairments:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Loss of limb or limb deficiency
  • Leg-length difference
  • Short stature
  • Hypertonia
  • Ataxia
  • Athetosis
  • Visual
  • Intellectual

Once classified, swimmers are allocated an Athlete Classification Status

Where a swimmer is allocated a classification (S1-S14) they will also be allocated relevant exception codes.

Physical Impairment

To be classified with a physical impairment, a swimmer’s functional mobility is assessed by  World Para Swimming trained classifiers.

The process involves a physical test, technical test and observation in competition, during which time a swimmer’s classification will be determined along with the identified stroke exceptions applicable to the individual.

A minimum of two classifiers form a classification panel consisting of a medical classifier (a doctor or physiotherapist), who will have undertaken the British Para-Swimming classifier training, and a technical classifier (a swimming coach).

  • Click here to e-mail us for more information on how to become a classifier.

In the first instance, swimmers will need to obtain a British Swimming classification and then as they progress along the elite pathway may be put forward for an international classification.

Visual Impairment

Swimmers with a visual impairment range from blind to visually impaired.

When testing is undertaken, the classification is allocated based upon sight in best eye with best correction.

There are two levels of VI classification in GBR: British Blind Sport and British Swimming.

Intellectual Impairment

Swimmers with an intellectual impairment have to meet the eligibility criteria.

There are two levels of II classification in GBR: SportExcel and Virtus.

Further Information

Classification Medical Review

A Medical Review Request (MRR) is possible for swimmers with a status BS or R – with fixed date review, when it is considered that there is a change in the swimmer’s medical condition, either by medical intervention or other or where the impairment is progressive, that would affect the classes allocated:

Request for reviews must be submitted to British Para-Swimming Office together with recent (within 12 months) supporting medical documentation and the request for review fee, a minimum of 3 months prior to a competition where classification is available.

Classification protest

A ‘Protest’ is the procedure for a formal objection to an Athlete’s Sport Class is made and subsequently resolved.

A Protest may only be submitted at a competition, and only once at that competition, to the Chief Classifier, on the appropriate form, with any supporting documentation and the Protest fee of £100

Protests may be submitted by a Team Manager/Coach/Swimmer following completion of an Athlete Evaluation and allocation of Sport Class either:

  1. within one (1) hour of the Classification Panel’s decision regarding Sport Class being published (this is usually following the classification process)  or
  2. within fifteen (15) minutes of the decision being published, following First Appearance (after the swimmer has competed for the first time)

Where a protest is successful, a further Athlete Evaluation will be conducted by another Classification Panel, at the earliest opportunity.

Athletes with a BS status can be protested only by the Chief Classifier under exceptional Circumstances.

More detailed guidelines can be obtained from the Chief Classifier following a classification evaluation.

Further details regarding eligibility can be found on the World Para Swimming website.

For more information on any of these processes or systems please contact the Classification Coordinator on 07795416930 or send an email to