Pool of confusion: Scott's entry classification is under question days before nationals

Tuesday, August 8, 2006
Susan Beth Scott, 14, will be competing in the breaststroke and possibly the backstroke and freestyle this week at the U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Championships in San Antonio, Texas. (Diane L. Wilson)

Susan Beth Scott and her family are learning international politics plays a part in all sports -- even Paralympic events.

Scott, a swimmer with the Gators Swim Team, heads to San Antonio, Texas, this week, unsure if she will swim in one or three events at the U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Championships.

On Wednesday, a day before the three-day meet begins, the 14-year-old Scott will find out her status in the classification process.

Scott was born with a form of spina bifada and has had operations in her youth to remove tissue that had attached to her spinal cord. She began swimming in Paralympics competitions in 2004, posting times that ranked her among the world's top swimmers.

Following the U.S. Paralympics Swimming Open Championships in December, Scott's status in the S10 classification -- the least disabled swimmers -- came into question.

"I'm not for certain how they work that," Mike Scott, Susan Beth's father, said of the classification process. "Her condition has about 30 syllables, and she's learned to compensate for much of it over the years."

Following the U.S. Open, in which athletes from 16 countries participated, an Australian judge made the ruling against Susan Beth Scott.

This week's event will feature athletes from several countries but also will be the CanAm meet, serving in the process to select national teams for the United States and Canada. Top swimmers can move on to the IPC World Championships, scheduled for Nov. 27 through Dec. 9 in Durban, South Africa.

Scott, who won the 1,500-meter freestyle and was third in the 200 backstroke in the U.S. Open, will compete -- at the very least -- in the breaststroke, in which she is classified as SB9, and possibly the backstroke and freestyle events.

"She will have some competing to do either way," Mike Scott said. "The back and the freestyle are up in the air. It's a 50-50 chance of getting the backstroke classification."

If Susan Beth Scott is able to compete in freestyle, she knows she will have some work to do. She posted a time of 5 minutes, 7 seconds in the 400 freestyle in January in the BlazeSports Georgia Open in Atlanta but was 10 seconds behind one of the United States' top S10 freestyle swimmers, Ashley Owens, a medalist at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Greece.

"She beat me by a lot," Susan Beth Scott said. "Since I swam against her, I've dropped 5 seconds in the 400 freestyle, and my seed time would place me fifth in the world rankings.

"This summer, I've been to two USA meets and a lot of summer league meets. My times are getting better."

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