Para SwimmingNews

What To Watch For At The Para Swimming World Championships In Manchester

by Karen Price

Jessica Long in the pool, looks directly at the camera and smiles after winning gold
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The world’s best Para swimmers are gathered in Manchester, England, for the world championships in a competition that will set the stage for Paris 2024.


With one year to go until next summer’s main event, this week’s competition — which runs July 31-Aug. 6 — is an opportunity to see where everyone stacks up against the rest of the world. Athletes who were new on the scene in Tokyo may be just now entering their prime. Athletes making their debuts will be getting valuable experience, and perhaps announcing their arrivals with their first major international medals. Veterans may find themselves pushed like never before by up-and-comers, or they may leave no question that they’re still the ones to beat.


Here’s a look at some of the athletes who’ll be competing for Team USA. Find a full schedule and results here.

The U.S. is sending 15 women and six men to this year’s world championships, the most decorated of whom is Jessica Long. Long, who was featured in a Toyota Super Bowl commercial in 2021, will be making her eighth world championships appearance. She has an incredible 52 medals to her name, 35 of them are gold. The 31-year-old shows no signs of stopping as she continues on toward what will be her sixth Paralympic Games in Paris next summer.


The U.S. is sending 15 women and six men to this year’s world championships, the most decorated of whom is Jessica Long. Long, who was featured in a Toyota Super Bowl commercial in 2021, will be making her eighth world championships appearance. She has an incredible 52 medals to her name, 35 of them are gold. The 31-year-old shows no signs of stopping as she continues on toward what will be her sixth Paralympic Games in Paris next summer.

Olivia Chambers poses for a photo.
Jayme Halbritter

Olivia Chambers announced her intentions to compete for a medal in Paris a year ago when she broke a 10-year-old American record in the 400-meter individual medley in the S13 classification for those with visual impairments. The 19-year-old made her first national team at the beginning of the year and will now make her world championships debut.


“There’s not been one meet where I don’t think she’s gone faster than the time before, which is really exciting for her but also for us because we have a very deep field in S13 women,” Popovich said.


Hannah Nelson, who lost her left leg below the knee due to cancer at age 11, also made her first national team this year and will be making her international debut in Manchester. Also competing for the first time will be Christie Raleigh Crossley, a former able-bodied swimmer at Florida State who now competes in Para swimming following a series of accidents. Earlier this year, Raleigh Crossley set a world record in the women’s 50-meter backstroke.


David Abrahams made his Paralympic debut in 2021 and won a silver medal in the 100-meter breaststroke SB13, but missed what would have been his first world championships last year because of injury. The 22-year-old Harvard math major, who has a visual impairment, is back healthy and ready to make his debut this year in his first major international meet since Tokyo.


Noah Jaffe, whose recent classification change has meant a switch from focusing away from distance races, has spent his summer at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.


“We’re excited to see what he’s going to do because we think he’s finally been able to put a lot of the pieces together in terms of training and finding consistency in training,” Popovich said.

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Long and Smith are far from the only decorated athletes on the roster. They’ll be joined by fellow Paralympic gold medalists Hannah Aspden, Elizabeth Marks — who recently was named “Soldier for Life” by the U.S. Army for her service to her country — and Morgan Stickney, along with fellow 2020 Paralympic medalists Lizzi Smith, Colleen Young, Julia Gaffney and Ahalya Lettenberger on the women’s side, and Matthew Torres and Jamal Hill on the men’s.

Medals, obviously. Last year’s world championships featured 502 athletes from 59 countries, and with this year being the last before the Paralympics, more are expected to attend. The U.S. won a total of 40 medals last year, and Team USA’s 24 gold medals was second only to Italy, which had 27.


But adding a little more oomph to the meet is the fact that Paralympic slots are up for grabs. An athlete finishing first or second in an event will earn their nation a qualifying spot for next summer’s Games. Each athlete can only earn one spot for their country, however, so the greater the overall team success, the more chances for the U.S. to rack up qualifying slots now without having to rely on rankings down the road.

In addition to performance, the U.S. coaching staff will also be looking to see how athletes handle the pressure and different obstacles that may be thrown their way. One example?


Morgan Ray surprised us like no other last year,” Popovich said.


Ray, who was born with a form of dwarfism called achondroplasia, got to his first world championships last year and tested positive for COVID-19. His coach was in Florida but the two of them did everything they could think of to keep Ray in shape while confined to his hotel room — even just floating in the bathtub to keep the feeling of being in the water — and the day before the 100-meter breaststroke he tested negative.


“He pulled off the silver medal in that race,” Popovich said. “It was crazy all the things he was able to do in a hotel room. That was some dedication.”

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