Manchester represents a step forward for Elite Athletes with a Disability in Commonwealth terms as it is the first games where there are EAD events included alongside the mainstream events, in all sports not just swimming. Any medals won by the EAD competitors will count towards the overall medal tallies of the relevant country.
For reasons of time available in the programme, all of the disability classes will swim together in a single event, over 50m and 100m freestyle. The final results are determined on a “handicap” system to ensure a level playing field for all of the athletes regardless of their classification. This means that he ranking is determined not by the absolute time recorded by a swimmer, but by the difference between the time recorded and the world record in the appropriate classification. This will make it hard to determine the results form watching the race, and also makes predicting anything even harder, as even a world record swim might no be good enough for gold, if another swimmer breaks their world record by a bigger margin.
All of the talk leading into these games has been on South Africa’s Nathalie du Toit, who competed in Kuala Lumpur as an able bodied athlete, but tragically lost a leg in a motorcycle accident two years ago. Undeterred she has battled back to fitness to qualify not only for the EAD events but also the 400m freestyle. Her ultimate aim is to compete in the Olympics, although she may be slightly off the [pace at the minute, it will be interesting to see how she fares here. She starts as a favourite in the women’s events, but will have some stern competition form England’s entrants. Sarah Bailey, double Sydney paralympic silver medallist and former paralympic champion is probably the host nations biggest hope, but Elaine Barrett herself a paralympic medallist will also be well in contention. As might be expected, Australia are sending a strong challenge in the shape of Dianna Ley, in the S9 classification.
In the men’s events, England’s James Crisp, Darren Leach, and Matthew Walker will all be strong medal contenders to add to their Sydney successes, but again they will be faced with a strong Australian challenge form Alex Harris in the S7 category. The Isle of Man will also have a shot at a medal from their EAD representative, 4 time paralympian and Sydney silver medallist Ian Sharpe, who swims in the S11 category.