The International Paralympic Committee conducted its first 5K open water world championship swim in Mar de Plata, Argentina in 2003. The second International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Championships to have a 5K race was in Durban, South Africa in 2006.
The next IPC open water world championship race will be held at E3 beach in Eersel, the Netherlands in 2010. The 5K 2010 IPC Swimming World Championship will be an open class race (meaning that athletes from different handicap classes will compete against one another).
The IPC recently voted to include athletes with intellectual disability in its competitions, starting with the 2012 Paralympic London Games. Timothy P. Shriver, Ph.D., Chairman & CEO of the Special Olympics, wrote, "This is an important change for the IPC and presents an opportunity to direct [the Special Olympics] focus to the power of sport around the world. Most importantly, this new competition opportunity will be exciting for elite athletes with intellectual disabilities who will get a chance to participate in extraordinary Games. We know everyone in Special Olympics joins us in extending an early congratulation to those athletes who will have the chance to compete and show the world their enormous skill and courage."
With the leadership of its top executives, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Special Olympics, and the IPC have strengthened the collaboration between the organizations and share the message that each is a pillar of the Olympic movement charged with fulfilling the Olympic vision in a distinct way. While the IOC leads the Olympic movement and the IPC leads the world of elite sport for people with disabilities, the philosophy of Special Olympics is unique. At its core, Special Olympics offers training and competition to 3.2 million athletes in 186 countries with an intellectual disability who wants to train and compete.
It is a not well-known fact that at the recent Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai, over 100 performances by Special Olympics athletes in aquatics and track & field would have qualified those athletes for Olympic teams. So there are some Special Olympics athletes already competing at Olympic levels.
But, most importantly - and consistent with the sport of open water swimming where collegial spirit and camaraderie reign - the Special Olympics celebrates excellence in sport in the truest Olympic ideal: sport for the joy of competition, sport for the exhibition of human bravery, sport for the achievement of human aspiration.
As Dr. Shriver writes, "We believe that our Special Olympics sports model is a pure and powerful example of the Olympic vision where greatness is measured by the effort, the joy, and the courage of the competitor. We believe that many volunteers and fans around the world see in our athletes the best in sports."
From our perspective, the effort, joy and courage that he talks about is also embodied by open water swimmers around the world.
The emerging worlds of the Special Olympics and open water swimming will come together in July 2011 in Greece at the 2011 World Summer Games where the Special Olympics will hold its first world championship for open water swimming - a 1.5K sea swim where the athletes can test themselve against each other - and the dynamic nature of the elements.
The reach and scope of the Special Olympics and open water swimming are clearly expanding - and its embodiment will be seen at the 1.5K race in the 25° (77°F) waters in the City of Marathon.
We will be proud to cover this seminal event.
Copyright © 2010 by World Open Water Swimming Association