“The International Paralympics Committee (IPC ) has over the years created a global spectacular for competitors and global audiences alike. However, its Classification Policy is grossly unfair as it discriminates against world-class Down Syndrome swimmers. Please help these dedicated athletes to achieve parity with other Para-athletes by contacting us so that their dream can be fulfilled.”
To continue and develop the initial idea of the existence of Special 21 – the introduction of Self Classification for athletes with Down Syndrome. Despite the numbers and results we still do not see the faces of these athletes in the Paralympics. Why?
Simply, they must compete unequally with athletes with intellectual disabilities only.
Patients with Down Syndrome present, along with an intellectual limitation, a series of physical motor limitations that do not make them a fair competitor in swimming when competing with athletes with intellectual disabilities only.
Just because it is so unfair and discriminatory we are unlikely to ever see an athlete with Down Syndrome on a Paralympic swim podium, so little chance of competing in this race no matter how hard they train, no matter how hard they try… however much they dream. This is our dream!
The Origin of the Name
The project started with the international Down Syndrome swimmer Filipe Santos (Trisomia 21), when he broke the world record of 50m butterfly by Futebol Clube de Ferreiras in 2015.
The question soon arose, “Go to the Paralympics, right? After all it’s the WORLD record! ”, The response was a shock -“ NO!
This paradox is easily explained but its injustice is crystal clear and frustration automatically led to an attempt by all concerned to react. In Portugal, the Portuguese Swimming Federation recognizes the classification for people with Down Syndrome, called S21, this special project was quickly named “SPECIAL 21”.
At the same time, the Futebol Clube de Ferreiras established an Adapted Swimming project apart from competitions within the local schools. With the support from the Albufeira Town Hall and a Group of Ferreiras Schools- a swimming project for students with Special Educational Needs was created.
A SPECAL 21 logo was created and incorporated into the swimsuit design. These newly designed swimsuits were presented to all participating students by a Project Partner Association.
It soon became apparent that SPECIAL 21’s objectives would take a lot of time and effort to achieve and therefore the project began to focus its attention on the nearest and therefore most achievable needs – an inclusive Adapted Swimming project for ALL! This means that SPECIAL 21 is now representing all swimming deficiencies in the swimming classifications S1, S2, S3 …. S21 (‘S’ stands for swimming and the numbers of each type of disability classified).
“Disseminating Adapted Swimming social projects through a worldwide network is a small but necessary step in breaking down barriers and creating real opportunities for young people with disabilities. Special 21 starts Local grows to Global.”