Because of the wide array of events offered, swimming is appropriate for a range of ages and ability levels. Swimming competition events are conducted with a variety of strokes. Special Olympics also offers events that provide a meaningful competition environment for athletes who thrive in shorter events, and/or are building toward more capacity. The development of these basic skills are necessary to progress to other competitive events.
In addition to traditional events, athletes can participate in Unified Sports® relays. Unified Sports® is a program that assigns Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual disabilities (partners) to the same teams for training and competition. On a Unified relay, a team consists of two Special Olympics athletes and two partners.
As in all Special Olympics sports, athletes are grouped in competition divisions according to ability level, age and gender.
50, 100, 200 and 400 meter freestyle
50, 100 and 200 meter backstroke
50 and 100 meter breaststroke
50 and 100 meter butterfly
100 meter individual medley
4 x 25 and 4 x 50 freestyle relay
4 x 25 unified relay
The following provide meaningful competition for athletes who prefer shorter events:
25 meter freestyle
25 meter breaststroke
25 meter backstroke
25 meter butterfly
15 meter walk
15 and 25 meter flotation
15 and 25 meter assisted swim
15 meter freestyle
Handbook & Rules
National Governing Body: Fédération Internationale de Natacion Amateur (FINA)
- Swimming was an event at the first Special Olympics International Games held in Chicago, Illinois, in 1968. At the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games held in Dublin, Ireland, 573 athletes representing 97 Special Olympics programs competed in swimming.
- Forty Minnesota delegations currently offer their athletes the opportunity to train and compete in swimming at the area and/or state level