Paralympic champion Maisie Summers-Newton will be among the home stars looking to get the new season off to a flying start as the Para Swimming World Series 2022 kicks off in Aberdeen, Great Britain on Thursday (17 February).
The four-day event is the first major competition for the sport since the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games last year. It is an important stepping-stone to this year’s World Championships in Madeira and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. The Para Swimming World Series Great Britain 2022 also marks the start of the next Paralympic cycle, which leads to Paris 2024.
Summers-Newton had an outstanding debut at the Games winning the 100m breaststroke SB6 and the 200m individual medley SM6, where she set a world record of 2:56.68. She is hoping to repeat her success in the events at the Aberdeen Sports Village.
The host nation has entered a 54-strong team, which includes all the Paralympic swimming champions from Tokyo. On the starter blocks will be Reece Dunn, who secured a hat-trick and a world record, Tully Kearney, Hannah Russell, Bethany Firth, Jessica-Jane Applegate, and Jordan Catchpole.
“To win two gold medals at my first Paralympic Games was an absolute dream come true and more,” said Summers-Newton. “It’s something I have dreamt of and worked so hard for all of my swimming career so far, so to have them to my name is incredible.
“Waiting an extra year definitely made winning those gold medals and the whole Paralympic experience extra special. I just remember going round the village and thinking I can’t believe I am here.”
The focus has now moved from Tokyo 2020, which was postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, to the launch of a busy 2022 campaign: “This will be my first time competing in Aberdeen and my first World Series event of the season. I feel really excited to be back out there racing again without much pressure and to just enjoy the whole experience,” she said.
“World Series events are so good for us athletes as it gives us the opportunity to race against the world more frequently and gain lots of experience and confidence from them, which is great for the younger athletes.”
There are 97 athletes from 13 countries set to race in Scotland’s third largest city. They will travel from as far as Belgium Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Malaysia, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, and Ukraine.
Canada's Danielle Dorris who won gold in the women's 50m butterfly S7 at Tokyo 2020 is hoping to impress on her first trip to British waters. Other Paralympian visitors include Spain’s Inigo Lloppis Sanz, who won a silver in the men’s 100m backstroke S8 and flying the flag for Brazil will be three-time world champion, Phelipe Melo Rodrigues (S10).
But there will be one notable absence in the GB team. Five-time Paralympic, eight-time world and seven-time European champion, Ellie Simmonds, retired after Tokyo 2020. She was the inspiration for Summers-Newton taking up the sport after watching her win two gold medals at London 2012.
Paying tribute to her idol, who she beat in the finals of her S6 races in Tokyo, she said: “Racing against Ellie at her last Paralympic Games will be a memory I will never ever forget. Watching Ellie at the London 2012 Games inspired me to be where I am today, she also inspired so many other athletes on our team.
“We raced the same races and were there for each other throughout, so they will be memories I will cherish forever. Ellie has always been my hero ever since I was a young girl as she was someone I could relate to in so many ways, because we have the same condition and both swim.”
Summers-Newton’s success in Tokyo was capped off by the announcement last month that she would receive one of the country’s top honours, an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire), for her services to swimming.
“Having my name announced in the New Year’s Honours List with an MBE this year is just amazing. As swimmers we are used to the medals you may win in competition, but to be awarded something so prestigious and special is something I am so grateful for.”
The student, from Northampton, who is training to be a primary school teacher at university, will also compete in the 400m freestyle S6 in Aberdeen.
It will be the first time the city has hosted the World Series, which was launched in 2017. Previous events in Great Britain were held in Glasgow and Sheffield.
The competition will also be the first of a multi-year agreement between World Para Swimming and British Swimming to host the Para Swimming World Series in the country through to 2024.
Aberdeen is the first of five legs in the 2022 Para Swimming World Series. The second kicks off in Melbourne on Friday (18 February) and will run for three days. The third will be in Lignano Sabbiadoro, Italy from 11 to 13 March, followed by Berlin, Germany from 31 March to 3 April, and end in Indianapolis, USA from 7 to 9 April.
Athletes take part in multiclass races and their results at each Series are calculated using a standardised World Para Swimming points system.
At the end of a World Series’ season the best female and male swimmers’ awards are picked based on rankings. In 2021 Germany’s Elena Krawzow and Spain’s Antoni Ponce claimed the women’s and men’s titles, respectively.
Fabiola Ramirez from Mexico and Alberto Abarza from Chile won the women’s and men’s high-support needs (for athletes in classes S1 to S3), respectively. The junior World Series 2021 winners were Austria’s Janina Falk and Poland’s Alan Ogorzalek.
Israel topped the ranking among National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) with 14034 points with Mexico second and Spain third.
Aberdeen 2022 will be streamed live on the World Para Swimming website and Facebook page. Live results will be available here.