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London 2019: Jessica Long queries changes

by ZwemZa on September 12th, 2019

The United States’ Jessica Long is a 13-time Paralympic champion (Getty Images)

Multiple Paralympic swimming champion Jessica Long says changes to the sport’s classification system have affected her motivation.

International Paralympic Committee (IPC) rules require all competitors to go through international classification before the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

Some athletes have been moved into the 27-year-old American’s S8 category, making her competition notably tougher.

“It breaks my heart, having been an S8 my entire life,” Long told BBC Sport.

“The thing everyone has to realise is it affects the next generation and that is so sad.

“I have trained so so hard to be where I am at – I train with Olympic athletes and if I’m struggling to get to the top then there is something wrong.”

Long, who was born in Siberia but adopted by an American family, had both her legs amputated when she was 18-months-old as a result of a birth defect.

She made her Paralympic debut aged 12 in Athens in 2004, when she won three gold medals.

She has since then been a dominant force in her category, winning multiple titles and becoming one of the faces of the sport.

She gets married next month and while she admits this week’s Para-swimming World Championships have not been her main focus, she is motivated by the changes in the sport.

“There are things out of my control and that fuels my fire,” she admitted.

“But I want to focus on what I can control – it doesn’t mean I like it, and even with all this, somehow I can hopefully still end up on top.”

The IPC say the changes are the result of a request from member nations with input from classifiers and experts and following extensive testing.

In a statement it said: “Throughout the entire process member nations have been kept informed at regular stages of the progress made.

“When presenting these changes and timeline in greater detail in 2017, the member countries provided positive feedback to World Para Swimming on the proposed changes and timeline for introduction.

“We acknowledge that such changes have had an impact on several athletes who have either changed class or being found ineligible.

“More efforts need to be made by World Para Swimming and member nations to mitigate the impact such decisions have on an athlete’s well-being going forward and this has been subject to much discussion within the Paralympic movement.”

Elizabeth Hudson | BBC Sport

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