Swimming Opportunities

There are a growing number of competition opportunities for swimmers with Intellectual Impairment. Scroll below to learn more about Athletes Without Limits trips to Virtus events as well as other opportunities through Paralympics, Move United and High School State Meets. 

1) Virtus Competition Pathway

AWL’s US National Team at 2019 Brisbane Global Games

Athletes Without Limits organizes U.S. Teams of swimmers with Intellectual Impairment, Autism and Down Syndrome to compete as part of our USA National Teams at Virtus Regionals, Virtus World Championships, and Virtus Global Games. Click the topics below for more details about Virtus Swimming…

A. About Virtus International 

Virtus is the international federation for athletes with intellectual impairment. Virtus competitors are an elite group of athletes from around the world making great achievements in sport including swimming. See the records and rankings on the Virtus website to see just how fast world champion athletes with intellectual disability are! We are excited to see US swimmers among those rankings since the startup of Athletes Without Limits and look forward to more in years to come.

B. Eligiblity Groups at Virtus Events

What is unique about Virtus events is that they offer three separate competition groups:

  1. Virtus II1: Intellectual Disability (including Autism w/IDD)
  2. Virtus II2: Down Syndrome (or similar additional impairment)
  3. Virtus II3: Autism (with IQ over 75)

The first step for interested athletes is to work with Athletes Without Limits to complete our National eligibility application to determine eligibility for AWL-Virtus and/or Paralympic competition.

C. Virtus Calendar & Time Standards

Virtus Sanctioned Events include:

  • Virtus Global Games (every 4 years)
    Athletes must meet event MQS Time Standards and be able to Travel with our AWL US Team
  • Virtus Regional Games (every 4 years)
    Athletes must meet event MQS Time Standards and be able to Travel with our AWL US Team
  • Virtus Swimming World Championships
    Athletes must meet event MQS Time Standards and be able to Travel with our AWL US Team
  • Occasional Athletes Without Limits National Swim events (no time standards) Athletes make athletes come to events with their family

D. Upcoming  & Past AWL Trips to Virtus Events:

Events will be added to our AWL Calendar and include:

E. Athletes Without Limits National Swim Competitions

Occasionally Athletes Without Limits partners with Host Teams and/or Meets to host Virtus-sanctioned National events. Past events include:

Leslie Cichocki

AWL’s Leslie Cichocki is the first US swimmer with intellectual impairment to qualify for the US Paralympic Swim Team when she qualified for Rio 2016. Since then more swimmers have gone on to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Games (held in 2021 due to COVID-19).

2) Paralympic Competition Pathways

Swimming is one of three Paralympic sports that re-included athletes with intellectual impairment starting with the 2012 London Games. Events vary from developmental regional meets to qualifying for U.S. Paralympic Trials and the Paralympic Games.

Athletes Without Limits only manages the eligibility/classification process for athletes with intellectual impairment and is not otherwise involved in Paralympic events which are overseen by U.S. Paralympics (USOPC).

The Paralympic Swimming Class S14/SB14 is open to athletes with an Intellectual Disability who meet the Virtus II1 Eligibility Criteria for Intellectual Disability (athletes must have an IQ of 75 or lower).

A. Paralympic Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for Paralympics S14 Class for Intellectual Impairment athletes must meet the Virtus II1 Criteria for Intellectual Disability:

  • Full Scale IQ 75 or lower
  • Significant Adaptive Limitations in at leas one domain
  • Onset before 22

Athletes Without Limits eligibility application is the first step for U.S. athletes seeking National Classification in the S14 Class for Intellectual Impairment in order to compete in Paralympic-hosted events.

B. Virtus Eligibility Groups & Paralympic Classification
While Virtus has expanded our competition to athletes with intellectual impairment in the three eligibility groups below, Paralympics has one class for athletes with intellectual impairment (which is called Class S14 in Swimming). Only athletes who meet the Virtus II1 criteria are eligible for Paralympic competition.

  • Virtus II1-Intellectual Disability (IQ 75 or lower, Significant Adaptive Limitations, Onset before 22)
    Athletes are eligible to compete in Virtus II1 group at Virtus events AND Paralympics Class for Intellectual Impairment at Paralympic events.
  • Virtus II2-Intellectual Disability with Significant Additional Impairment (including Tri21 Down Syndrome) Athletes with Down syndrome can apply for dual eligibility to compete in the Virtus II1 Class for Intellectual Impairment offered at Paralympic events AND the separate Virtus II2 group for athletes with Down Syndrome offered at Virtus events. 
  • Virtus II3-Autism with IQ 76 or higher (Sometimes called ‘High Functioning Autism’)
    Athletes with Autism whose IQ is above 75 are not eligible for Paralympics, but can compete at Virtus events in the Virtus II3 group.

Athletes Without Limits eligibility application is the first step for U.S. athletes seeking National Classification in the S14 Class for Intellectual Impairment in order to compete in Paralympic-hosted events.

C. Paralympic Pathway for New Swimmers

Many events in the U.S. that are sanctioned by U.S. Paralympics or use Paralympic Classification are open to new and developmental level athletes with National Classification (Virtus II1/S14).

Athletes enter meets directly through their home team, home coach or individually — Athletes Without Limits only manages the eligibility/classification process for athletes with intellectual impairment and is not otherwise involved in Paralympic events.

New Athletes with intellectual impairment (Autism, Down syndrome or IDD) should apply to Athletes Without Limits for National Level Virtus II1 at: www.athleteswithoutlimits.org/eligibility

Note athletes with Intellectual Impairment do not need to make a National Classification Appointment (those are for athletes with physical and visual impairments). The Athletes Without Limits Eligibility Application is used instead of an National event appointment since eligibility is based on a review of psychological testing.

Most new and developmental level swimmers do not need an International Paralympic (IPC) License or IPC International Classification Appointment, which are only intended or athletes who’ve met elite-level time standards (see Advanced Swimmers below).

The National Developmental meets listed on the Paralympic Calendar below are typically held annually but can vary from year to year. Developmental meets usually offer more individual events than the five S14 swim events offered at the Paralympic Games which are (200m free, 100m back, 100m breast, 100m fly, 200m IM, and 4x100m free relay).

Training Tip: For swimmers whose goal is to make the U.S. Paralympic Team, it’s important to focus on events open to S14 athletes in the Paralympic Games: 200m free, 100m back, 100m breast, 100m fly, 200m IM, and 4x100m free relay. A qualifying time in one of these events is required to qualify for Paralympic Team Trials and compete in the Paralympic Games.

D. Paralympic Pathway for Advanced Swimmers

Advanced level swimmers are those who can make a U.S. Paralympic National Team Emerging Time Standard in one of the events open to Swimmers with Intellectual Impairment (S14) at the Paralympic Games.

Athletes must have the following to enter the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials:

1. Achieve a US National Team Emerging Time Standard in and S14 event:
200m free, 100m back, 100m breast, 100m fly, 200m IM, and 4x100m free relay.

2. Confirm Virtus International Level Eligibility: Athletes who are meeting Paralympic Team Emerging Time Standards should first apply to Athletes Without Limits for full Virtus International Level Eligibility if they have not done so already. You can check our US Master List of Eligible Swimmers to see if you have National or International Virtus Eligibility. If you only have National then complete our current Virtus International Eligibility Application.

2. Apply for IPC License: Athletes who have completed Virtus International Eligibility and who are meeting Paralympic Team Emerging Time Standards  may then apply to U.S. Paralympics for an IPC License.

3. Seek IPC International Classification Appointments (two required):
Once athletes have obtained an IPC License they may ask U.S. Paralympics to request an IPC International Classification Appointment at events that offer International Classification specifically for athletes with Intellectual Impairment. International Classification appointments for athletes with an intellectual impairment involve skills testing and observation on a day prior to the competition. (Note this is different from the National Classification appointments offered at developmental meets which are only for new athletes with physical or visual impairments.) Athletes in contention for U.S. Paralympic Team selection must complete two IPC appointments (to go from “N” New to “R” Review to “C” Confirmed status) in time for U.S. Paralympic Team Trials.

Training Tip: Athletes Without Limits trips to Virtus Events are World Para Swimming Sanctioned! This means at Virtus events swimmers who are also pursuing S14 Paralympic opportunities can: 1) Achieve Qualifying Times that count toward Paralympic advancement 2) Compete against top S14 swimmers from other countries C) Obtain an IPC International Classification Appointment (which can be hard to come by since they are not typically offered at National Paralympic events). Our most recent Virtus trip was to the Global Games France in 2023. Future Virtus events are posted on the AWL Event Calendar.

Paralympic Swimming Calendars

Events that Follow Paralympic Classification Include:

  • US Paralympics Hosted Swimming Events (and U.S. Paralympic Team Selection)
  • Move United Local & Regional Events
  • High School State Swim Meets

U.S. Paralympic Swim Meets (Sanctioned and/or hosted by U.S. Paralympics Swimming)

We try to post all events open to swimmers with Virtus eligibility to our AWL calendar with detailed information specifically for S14 swimmers with intellectual impairment, but to see the latest information on all U.S. Paralympic swimming events visit: www.usparaswimming.org/competitions
To see a list of recent past events visit their site at : www.usparaswimming.org/results

*Green events are open to new/developmental swimmers with no time standards.

Move United Events (sanctioned by U.S. Paralympic Swimming)

MOVE UNITED is a national network of Adaptive Sports groups and events primarily focused on athletes with physical impairments. Some Move United events include swim meets that are sanctioned by U.S. Paralympic Swimming — so are open to athletes with National Eligiblity in the S14 Class for Intellectual Impairment. U.S. Paralympics posts the list below on their web page but directs athletes to the Moved United Sanctioned Event Calendar for more information.  (Move United says they will post 2024 events in January 2024)

  • February 25, 2023  – Tri-State Regional Swim Meet, Piscataway, NJ
  • April 1, 2023  – Baltimore Para Classic, Baltimore, MD
  • April 28  – 29, 2023 – Palmetto Games, Clemson, SC
  • May 4 – 8, 2023 – Texas Regional Games, San Antonio, TX
  • May 10 – 14, 2023 – Great Lakes Games, Lake Forest, IL
  • May 20 – 21, 2023 – Gateway Games, St. Peters, MO
  • May 24 – 28, 2023 – Desert Challenge Games, Mesa, AZ
  • June 8 – 11, 2023 – UCO Endeavor Games, Edmond, OK
  • June 16 – 18, 2023 – Dairyland Games
  • June 17 – 18, 2023 – Peachtree ParaGames, Atlanta, GA
  • June 23 – 25, 2023 – Turnstone Endeavor Games, Fort Wayne, IN
  • June 23 – 25, 2023 – Angel City Games, Los Angeles, CA
  • July 8 — 14, 2023 – Move United Nationals
    The 2024 Nationals event will be held July 12-18, 2024 in Hoover, Alabama.

State High School Meets

If your State High School Meet offers Paralympic classes, athletes with Intellectual Impairment who meet the swim qualifications can complete in the S14 class.

New swimmers should apply to Athletes Without Limits for Virtus II1/Paralympic Eligibility 3-4 weeks prior to the event entry deadline so we can confirm your eligibility and have you added to U.S. Paralympic’s National S14 Classification List.

If you have additional questions please use our Contact Us form.