• L. Malone
  • J. Lefort
  • R. Steadward


INTRODUCTION Classification has long been an accepted practice in sport, intended to provide fair competition by grouping athletes according to variables such as age, weight, and gender. In the case of athletes with a disability, classification is essential for the very existence of sports (Sherrill et al.,1986). Over the years, however, there has been heated debate regarding the definition and fairnessof athlete classification in disability sport (Richter et al., 1992; Weiss & Curtis, 1986). International competition for visually impaired swimmers is divided into three classes (Bl, B2, B3) base on visual acuity, visual field and light perception. Little scientific evidence is available regarding the relationship between visual classification and actual swimming performance parameters, and it has been argued that such classifications are unnecessary. To further examine this issue, an extensive investigation was conducted at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Paralympic Games. METHODS Swim performance data was collected for all male and female l00m freestyle swimmersin classes B1, B2 and B3. Performances were recorded using static video suweillance cameras placed at specified locations along the pool side (7.5, 10, 25.42.5m from the start). Camera data was fed to a video recorder via a central control panel and video recordings (30 fps) of the camera data were embedded with a time code from the official timing system. All events were analyzed in 25 metre segments and included identification of the following swim performance variables: clean swim speed, stroke rate, stroke length, start, turn and finish times. To determine if differences existed between the classes a separate multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was run for both males and females, followed by appropriate post hoc tests. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION The overall multivariate tests were found to be significant (p=.05) for both males andfemales. The female swim performances showed significant differences between all three classes on clean swim speed, turn time, and finish time. No significant difference in stroke length were identified between the classes for either males or females. No significant differences in any of the performance variables were found for males between classes B2 and B3. The similarity between the B2 and B3 male swimmers may indicate that such a split between classes is unnecessary. REFERENCES Richter, K.J., Adams-Mushett, C., Ferrara, M.S. & McCann, B.C. (1992). Integrated swimming classification: A faulted system. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 9.5-13. Sherrill, C., Adam-Mushett, C. & Jones, J.A. (1986). Classification and other issues in sports for the blind, cerebral palsied, les autures, and amputee athlete. In C. Sherrill (Ed.),Spoq and Disabled Athletes (pp. 93-100). Champaign, IL: Humm Kinetics. Weiss, M. and Curtis, K.A. (1986). Controversies in medical classification of wheelchair athletes. In C. S h e d (Ed.), Sport and disabled athletes (pp. 93-100). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.