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HomeminewsVision Impaired Swimmers to Compete in Commonwealth Games

Vision Impaired Swimmers to Compete in Commonwealth Games

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, commencing 28 July, will include visually impaired classifications in the para-swimming programme for the first time since swimming was featured in the Games in 1930.

The para-swimming competitions will take place from 29 July to 3 August at the new Sandwell Aquatics Centre, with a total of 14 para-swimming medals to be awarded. Australia will take to the pool with a squad of 27 para-swimmers. Among them are Paralympians Jenna Jones and William Martin OAM, who will be making their Commonwealth Games debut.

Australia will take to the pool with a squad of 27 para-swimmers

At age six, Ms Jones was diagnosed with Cone-Rod Dystrophy (CRD), a group of inherited eye disorders that affect the light sensitive cells of the retina, called cones and rods, which deteriorate over time, causing vision loss. The initial symptoms, which usually occur in childhood, include visual acuity and photophobia, followed by scotomas, loss of colour perception, and loss of peripheral vision, with most patients becoming legally blind by adulthood.

Ms Jones has described swimming as giving her “a purpose” that has led to great success in the pool. The now 21-year-old competed at the Pan Pacific Games and the World Championships, before qualifying for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games when she was 15.

Mr Martin, now 21-years-old, began his swimming career after suffering from a stroke at age six which resulted in vision impairment, a tremor in his right arm and weakness down his right side.

He made his Paralympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 games where he claimed three gold medals and one silver, breaking two world records and a Paralympic record in the process.

Para-swimmers are separated into three disability classes: physical disability, vision impairment and intellectual disability. Vision impaired swimmers are allocated to categories for those totally blind or with severe, but not total, visual impairment.

The main technique Ms Jones uses during the race is to count her strokes to determine how far away she is from the wall. Other methods include sticking to the lane rope for direction, following the line or markers at the bottom of the pool, or having an official “tapper” who is responsible for observing the swimmer’s strokes and tapping them with a long pole to indicate the lane ending so they can make a turn at the wall.

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will feature the largest para-sport program at a Commonwealth Games to date, with eight para-sports being contested – para-athletics, para-cycling, para-powerlifting, para-swimming, para-table tennis, para-triathlon, wheelchair basketball 3×3, and para-lawn bowls.