Guest article written by Julie Evens
The 9th Down Syndrome World Swimming Championships 2018 took place on 20 to 27 July in Truro, Nova Scotia. The whole town embraced the competition and over 100 volunteers, sponsors and community members welcomed swimmers and supporters from across the world.
The event began with an Opening Ceremony in Truro Civic Square. 200 competitors from 24 different countries
proudly paraded behind their national flags. The competition was formally opened by the Town Crier of Halifax Old Town, himself a young man with Down’s syndrome. He urged everyone to “play hard, play strong and be kind to each other” which set the tone for the amazing week to come.
Back at the hotel afterwards, GB Team Captain, Caroline Faithfull, 24, delivered a truly motivating speech to her team mates: “We have to do our best. We are not just Britain, we are Great Britain!”
DSS-GB (Down Syndrome Swimming Great Britain) had selected a squad of 25 elite swimmers from across the UK to represent Great Britain. The squad included 14 male and 11 female swimmers. The youngest competitor was just 13 years old and the oldest, 35.
Swimming is considered by some to be an individual sport. The DSS-GB team proved that this is a misconception – by working together and supporting one another they showed that great things can be achieved. Every member of the team achieved personal best times during the competition and the points accrued by the individual swimmers helped Great Britain to finish the competition in second place overall.
Mark Evens, 21, gained three gold medals (100m, 400m and 1500m Freestyle events), two silvers and a bronze and was individually ranked third in the world! He said: “Representing Great Britain was amazing and it was fantastic competing against top-class swimmers from around the world. I am thrilled to be a triple World Champion. I have been training since the age of 11 and am delighted that all my hard work has paid off.”
In the Women’s Open T21 competition, Caroline Faithfull and Florence Garratt both gained bronze medals. Florence, 25, was thrilled with her achievement: “I said to myself now I need to kick like billio and think what my Dad said, he said ‘explode’, which I did….I cannot believe that I got that bronze medal!”
In the Women’s Junior event, Lizzie Allen, 14, came away with a silver medal in the 25m backstroke and two bronzes in the 25m Breaststroke and Freestyle. Helen Thompson, 15, earned a silver and a bronze in the 25m Breaststroke and Butterfly respectively, whilst Cerys McCrindle, 16, gained bronze in the 25m Backstroke. In the Men’s Junior T21 competition, Jack Lyons, 15, was crowned World Champion for the 25m Breaststroke and also came away with silver in the 25m Freestyle.
At the opposite end of the age range, Mark Holmes proved that age is no barrier to training hard and achieving personal best times. Competing in his eighth World Championships, Mark set five new Masters World Records in the 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke and the 200m and 400m individual medley events.
Mosaic Down Syndrome is quite rare, occurring in only around 2% of cases. One of the highlights of this competition for DSS-GB athletes Ellen Stephenson and Harvey Stonebank was meeting other swimmers with Mosaic Down Syndrome from around the world. Ellen, whilst only 14 years old, won seven golds and one silver medal and broke four Open Mosaic World Records. She was crowned the overall Female Mosaic Champion.
Harvey, the youngest member of the squad won all of his 25m races, setting a new World Record in the 25m Backstroke. He also qualified for three Open Mosaic finals and took bronze in the 50m Backstroke.
The commitment, effort and team spirit of every member of the DSS-GB squad was fantastic. They all showed what true sportsmanship, perseverance and dedication look like. This was never more obvious than during the relay events, when swimmers, coaches and supporters all made themselves hoarse, cheering their team mates all the way to the finish.
Throughout the competition, memories were made that will live with the swimmers and their families forever. Will Browning, 16, said: “I love swimming and the best part of being in Team GB is being with my friends. This week I have met new friends from across the world.” His father Ben added: “DSS-GB has become an extended family for us. They shout about true inclusion and serve as an inspiration to all out there that if you put your mind to it and train hard, anything is possible.”
At the end of the championships, DSS-GB Team Manager, Neil Lacey summed things up: “Team GB have had an excellent competition. We have a great mix of experience and youth within our team; our togetherness was demonstrated by achieving second place overall in the world. The swimmers have all done excellently with everyone producing personal bests and our relay teams improving on their times from the European Championships in Paris last year. We now look forward to the Europeans in Sardinia in 2019.”
For more information about DSS-GB, please visit:
A very big thank you to Julie for writing this piece and many congratulations to all of the DSS-GB Team!