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Natalie Sims Participates in Can-Am Paralympic Championships

By Dave Cameron, YWCA Otters Coach
March 27, 2014
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I arrived on Wednesday afternoon in Miami, where our swimmer, Natalie Sims, has been preparing and going through classification for an additional day. We are here for the Can-Am Paralympic Championships, which has the additional purpose of being the selection meet for the US National team at this summer’s Pan-Pacific Championships.

Natalie is 16 years old and has been on the YWCA’s swim club, the Minneapolis Otters, for three years. Over that period, she has moved from being a new participant in the sport of swimming to being one of our six fastest “15 & over” swimmers and one of the top-ranked American Paralympians in her classification.

Paralympic classification is a detailed and extensive process that requires application months in advance. Natalie has had American classification in the S9 category for the year since her first Paralympic meet in April 2013, but in order to have her times achieve world rankings, she had to meet with international officials.

The certifying official measured Natalie and then began measuring the activation and mobility of the muscles on her right arm to determine her strength and use. Natalie is limb deficient on her right arm, which ends about six inches in front of the elbow. They asked her to describe her training and experience, and monitored her racing and start ability. After this process, they determined she would maintain the S9 classification in international competition.

This meet, along with Natalie’s December competition in Edmonton, includes competition from North America and a few swimmers from abroad. Natalie swims in morning sessions against swimmers from all classifications and countries, and her evening competition is only among the top eight swimmers in the S9 category. So far, we’ve seen competitors from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Columbia, Russia, Costa Rica, Australia and Ireland.

The Can-Am Championships will also be the selection meet for the US National team for this summer’s Pan-Pacific Championship. Natalie was invited to compete as a developing swimmer for the US in Croatia in May, but declined because of conflicts in her academic calendar. Earning a spot on this summer’s team would be difficult, but it would be a huge stride forward in Natalie’s development as a swimmer.

At a meet like this, swimmers have qualifying standards to enter events, and there are minimum and maximum entry requirements. Natalie was required to enter events in Individual Medley (which includes equal parts butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle) and breaststroke, since she receives an additional classification specific to those races. Her strongest events are in freestyle, with some improvement recently in butterfly and backstroke. Her events for the next three days include:

100 Freestyle
100 Breaststroke

50 Freestyle
200 Individal Medley
100 Backstroke

400 Freestyle
100 Butterfly

Natalie just had her first race, and now we’ll get back to preparing her for the 100 breaststroke. Thanks for supporting our Minneapolis YWCA Paralympian!