While it is hard enough to have to deal with the everyday challenges of wheelchair life, being reclassified to compete with athletes who seem to have more mobility doesn’t make it any easier.
Paralympian Jonathan Dieleman, a finalist at the Rio Games, was recently reclassified during a competition and must now compete against athletes with much greater movement. It changes his rankings significantly.
“At recent competitions I did some really good best recorded times. In Victoria at the Western Canadian swimming championships I did a best time in 100m breast stroke and in the 50m breast I was two-tenths off of my best time at the Rio Paralympic games,” he said. “In Indianapolis I swam a best time in 200m freestyle by 20 seconds. I don’t swim that very often though. I also did a best time in 100 free by two seconds.”
Indianapolis was a world series race and a reclassification event.
“All Para swimmers that are internationally classified have to go through classification again before the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic games and Indianapolis was the meet picked for me to go through classification again,” he said.
The Paralympic classifications are based on what kind of disability and the severity of that disability. This hopefully pits athletes with very similar disabilities against each other in competitions. They sometimes look like a kind of computer language.
“The coaches and I weren’t happy with the results of the classification panel as I went from s5 sb3 sm4 to s5 sb4 sm5. The move up from sb3 to sb4 is a huge difference for me as I go from top three in the world to outside the top 12,” explained Dieleman.
“Also in the sm classification I get moved into a race that I can’t even really swim in the 200m Individual Medley as I have great difficulty swimming butterfly. In sm 4 I swam 150 IM which didn’t have butterfly,” he said.
As a result of being unhappy with the new classification, the coaches put in a protest. The protest was accepted by the classification panel but they were unable to put together another classification panel in Indianapolis, so Dieleman will be going through the process again as he goes to Italy for the world series meet in Lignano Sabbiadoro. Classification was last Wednesday while competition began Thursday.
“Hopefully, there I go back to my old classification,” he said.
Since returning home from Indianapolis, Dieleman has been putting in a lot of training to prepare for the meet in Italy.
“Coach Tom Best and I have been working on learning butterfly and working on my fitness level to prepare for the 100m breast stroke,” he said.
Dieleman is training for the butterfly in preparation of the undesirable outcome that his new classification stands and he has the challenge of racing some new events. Best feels that he has made great progress in the new stroke but he is very limited by the rods in his back.
“With those rods in there, he has very limited movement in the torso and the butterfly stroke needs that movement. None of the other athletes who he might have to swim against has these rods, so they can perform the stroke a lot more easily,” said Best.
That said, Best feels that Dieleman won’t go down without a fight.
“He’s a tough athlete and never gives less than his absolute best effort,” he said.
“Training has been going well since I’ve been home. I’m slowly learning butterfly. My goal for Italy is to smash the old Canadian record in sb4 100m breast stroke,” said Dieleman.
“At this point, my future plans are just to see how it goes in Italy and then prepare for what it will take to get to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.”