BONN, Germany, October 23. THE 2016 Paralympic Games swimming program will bulge at the seams with 16 new events set to be featured, including a mixed freestyle relay.
The International Paralympic Committee announced this week that 15 individual events that will debut in the 2016 Games in six disability divisions. According to the IPC, the events were added to “ensure a fair distribution of events across impairment types and gender.”
The bulk of the competitors fall within the S4-S11 categories, and no new events will be added to those divisions. The S1, S2, S3 and S13 categories get most of the new events, with the lower ranks getting a 100 backstroke event added. With the number of events for the men and women in the S13 category unequal, the IPC added the 400 free, 100 back and 100 fly for the women to add parity to that division.
To make room for these additions, the IPC had to drop some events. The S1 and S2 divisions pretty much have done away with freestyle events, save for a 200 free in the S2 men’s category, to add the backstroke events.
Dave Denniston, the head coach of the American Paralympic team, said USA Paralympics wasn’t involved in helping make adjustments to the lineup, but said it’s likely the freestyle events were removed from S1 and S2 because those athletes — who have the most severe disabilities — “tend to turn over on their backs and swim backstroke during a freestyle race.”
The S14 division was reintroduced in the 2012 Paralympics, and with the IPC deeming the classification’s return a success, those athletes are now getting the 200 IM added to their schedule.
Denniston said announcing the new events three years out from the Paralympics is a good thing, giving athletes a chance to adjust their schedules.
“The changes are exciting on some levels,” he said. “The mixed relay is something everyone is looking forward to. Every athlete in the U.S. is so fired up by the coverage we’re going to get by NBC that they’re excited to be in any race.”
The new events will get a test at the 2015 world championships, which will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, at the same venue for this December’s Duel in the Pool and next year’s Commonwealth Games.