'Tough to readjust expectations' - Paralympic champion Ollie Hynd on his reclassification

By Elizabeth Hudson and Kate GreyBBC Sport
Ollie Hynd
Ollie Hynd has won three Paralympic titles - one at London 2012 and two at Rio 2016
British Para-Swimming International Meet
Venue: Tollcross Pool, Glasgow Dates: 25-28 April

Paralympic swimming champion Ollie Hynd has described the past 14 months as "the worst of his life".

The 24-year-old, from Mansfield, came close to quitting the sport after being controversially reclassified last year.

He said the situation has had a detrimental effect on his mental health.

"I don't think I will get over what has happened, but I am getting better and trying to move forward," Hynd told BBC Sport.

"I came really close to quitting swimming. There were days I didn't want to get out of bed.

"I had been on the international scene for so long that my own perception and my self-worth was intertwined with me as a swimmer.

"When that was ripped away, I didn't believe in myself. Doing anything was a real challenge and over the last year I have had to find myself and get that self-belief back."

Hynd has the degenerative muscular condition neuromuscular myopathy, and had been competing in the S8 class since his international debut in 2011.

He won gold on his Paralympic debut in London and enjoyed two more victories at Rio 2016; he has also claimed European, World and Commonwealth titles.

But International Paralympic Committee (IPC) rules brought in at the start of 2018 required all swimmers to go through another international classification.

Hynd had the assessment in March 2018 in Copenhagen and was moved to the S9 category, where he would compete against less-impaired rivals.

Although he won the right to an appeal, the decision was upheld, leaving his future in doubt.

Hynd was not the only British swimmer to be affected by the issue in 2018.

Fellow Rio gold medallist Matt Wylie was changed from the S9 to S10 category, prompting his retirement last June, while Jonathan Fox also moved out of the sport following his reclassification and health issues.

London gold medallist Josef Craig, who was moved from a S7 to S8 in April 2014 but still managed to win a medal in Rio, also joined the list of retirees.

Although Hynd was tempted to join them away from the pool, he opted to remain in training. But it has led to challenging times and the stresses meant he only came back to anything approaching full training earlier this year.

"Before, I was right at the top in the 400m freestyle and the 200m medley and was competitive in the 100m backstroke and went into championships feeling like I could win," he said.

"Now it has changed. I am racing against different people and have dropped down the rankings and I have gone from challenging for gold to maybe fighting for a medal, if I am at my best.

"It is difficult to readjust my expectations of myself and where I am on the world stage.

Ollie Hynd and his brother Sam
Hynd and his older brother Sam both won medals at London 2012

Hynd will return to action at this week's British Para-swimming International meet in Glasgow, which doubles as the Great Britain trials for September's rearranged World Championships in London.

The tougher qualification standards for his new category require him to swim near-personal bests to have any chance of reaching the times in his events, meaning he could miss the chance to compete in another high-profile home competition.

But what he has gone through has given him a greater sense of perspective on swimming - and life.

"I'm playing the long game and am very realistic about this year," he says.

"If I don't make the team for the Worlds, maybe in the long run for my mental health and my life, that's possibly a good thing.

"I'm looking forward to Glasgow, which is the biggest win for me, and we'll see what happens. I'm hoping I can swim well and put in a decent performance.

"Classification is tough and classifiers have a really difficult job to get it right and I understand that.

"But I hope the IPC and the powers that be can learn from my experience and communicate better with the athletes.

"The welfare of the athletes needs to be at the forefront of everything and I don't think that has necessarily been the case."

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