Swimming is one of the bigger sports at the Paralympic Games in terms of numbers of events and numbers of competitors. It is a sport in which Britain excel: the team performed well in London to win 39 medals in total (just two fewer than Britain's swimmers won in Beijing).

Ellie SimmondsEllie Simmonds, who won over the British nation in Beijing when she won two gold medals  at just 13 years of age, built on her star status at London 2012 by winning four medals, two of them gold.

The team won a total of seven gold medals in London, including top honours for Paralympic debutants Josef Craig and Oliver Hynd, and the British swimmers also secured numerous silver and bronze medals. Craig's world record-breaking swim earned him the accolade of BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year 2012.

Despite a strong performance, international competition proved incredibly strong in the pool and Britain finished 7th in the medal table, down from 4th in Beijing. With a large number of athletes competing at their first Games in London, though, the team will undoubtedly build on their experience over the next Paralympic cycle.

  • First year at a Paralympic Games:
  • Toronto 1976
  • Brief history:
  • Since its introduction to the Games, Swimming has become one of the biggest sports at the Paralympic Games because of the many events and classification groups included
  • Eligible impairment groups:
  • All physical impairment and sensory groups – S11-13 for athletes with visual impairments and S1-10 for all other physical impairments. S14 is for athletes with a learning disability.
  • London medal table:
  • 1 - China (24 gold, 13 silver, 21 bronze)
    2 - Australia (18 gold, 7 silver, 12 bronze)
    3 - Ukraine (17 gold, 14 silver, 13 bronze)
    7- Great Britain (seven gold, 16 silver, 16 bronze)
  • GB medals in London:
  • Jessica-Jane Applegate, gold, women’s 200m Freestyle (S14)    
    Josef Craig, gold, men’s 400m Freestyle (S7)    
    Oliver Hynd, gold, men’s 200m Individual Medley (SM8), silver, men’s 400m Freestyle (S8), and bronze, men’s 50m Freestyle (S6)
    Heather Frederiksen, gold, women’s 100m Backstroke (S8) and 3x silver, women’s 4 x 100m Individual Medley Relay (34 pts), women’s 400m Freestyle (S8) and women’s 100m Freestyle (S8)
    Jonathan Fox, gold, men’s 100m Backstroke (S7)    
    Eleanor Simmonds, 2x gold, women’s 400m Freestyle (S6) and women’s 200m Individual Medley (SM6), silver, women’s 100m Freestyle (S6) and bronze, women’s 50m Freestyle (S6)
    Claire Cashmore, 2x silver, women’s 100m Breaststroke (SB8) and women’s 4 x 100m Individual Medley Relay (34 pts), and bronze, women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay (34 pts)    
    James Crisp, silver, men’s 100m Backstroke (S9)        
    Charlotte Henshaw, silver, women’s 100m Breaststroke (SB6)        
    Nyree Kindred, silver, women’s 100m Backstroke (S6)    
    Sascha Kindred, silver, men’s 200m Individual Medley (SM6)    
    Stephanie Millward, 4x silver, women’s 100m Backstroke (S9), women’s 400m Freestyle (S9), women’s 200m Individual Medley (SM9) and women’s 4 x 100m Individual Medley Relay (34 pts) and bronze, women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay (34 pts)
    Aaron Moores, silver, men’s 100m Backstroke (S14)    
    Hannah Russell, silver, women’s 400m Freestyle (S12)        
    Louise Watkin, 2x silver, women’s 50m Freestyle (S9) and women’s 4 x 100m Individual Medley Relay (34 pts) and 2 x bronze, women’s 200m Individual Medley (SM9)  and women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay (34 pts)
    Susie Rodgers, 3x bronze, women’s 100m Freestyle (S7), women’s 400m Freestyle (S7) and women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay (34 pts)    
    James Clegg, bronze, men’s 100m Butterfly (S12)                
    Sam Hynd, bronze, men’s 400m Freestyle (S8)        
    Liz Johnson, bronze, women’s 100m Breaststroke (SB6)    
    Natalie Jones, bronze, women’s 200m Individual Medley (SM6)        
    Harriet Lee, bronze, women’s 100m Breaststroke (SB9)    
    Hannah Russell, 2x bronze, women’s 100m Butterfly (S12) and women’s 100m Backstroke (S12)      
    Matthew Walker, bronze, men’s 50m Freestyle (S7)    
    Rob Welbourn, bronze, men’s 400m Freestyle (S10)        
    Matthew Whorwood, bronze, men’s 400m Freestyle (S6)      
  • Did you know:
  • Jonathan Fox won Great Britain's first gold medal in Swimming at London 2012, on the first day of the Games.
  • London 2012 venue:
  • Aquatics Centre, Olympic Park
  • Rio 2016 venue:
  • Aquatics Centre (Barra Zone)


Swimming comprises medal events in Freestyle, Backstroke, Butterfly and Breaststroke across distances that range from 50m to 400m.

Races take place in a standard 50m pool, with swimmers starting in a variety of different ways: from a standing start, using a dive start, sitting on the starting platform, and in the water. The start used is most usually dependant on the degree of functionality the athlete has.

The rules governing starts, strokes, turns and the length of time swimmers may remain under water are similar to those for the Olympic Games.


Swimmers at the Paralympic Games are classified into 13 different classes.

Swimmers with physical impairments are classified from S1 to S10. These are known as ‘functional’ classifications because classification is based on how an athlete moves in the water. This means that, at first glance, a spectator may see athletes with apparently very different impairments competing against each other. As long as the athletes move in the water with a similar level of impairment, however, they are classified in the same category.

Amongst the S1-10 categories, athletes with the lower classification numbers have the more severe impairments.

Swimmers who have visual impairments are classified from S11 to S13. S11 swimmers have little or no vision, while S13 swimmers will have a greater degree of vision than S11 or S12 athletes, but will still have less than 20 degrees of vision. Swimmers who are blind have an assistant called a ‘ tapper’ who may use a pole to tap the swimmer to warn them they are approaching the end of a length.

New for London 2012 is the S14 class for athletes with a learning disability.

It is important to note that an athlete’s classification may change for different swimming strokes, because the nature of their impairment may affect their ability to perform a particular stroke.


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