From the October 28 to November 4 Team GB of the Down Syndrome International Swimming Organisation (DSISO) attended the fourth European Championships in Bobigny, Paris, writes Jemima Browning.
Will Browning, from Stutton, together with Will Lake and Jake Vicars from Harrogate set off on the Eurostar to meet their 27 team mates in Paris.
The DSISO is an organisation that works to ensure that people with Downs Syndrome are afforded the opportunity to swim in regional, national and international competitions.
The swimmers come from across Great Britain and train at different swim squads. Will Browning trains with Tadcaster Stingrays and Harrogate Hotshots. Will Lake and Jake Vicars both train with Harrogate Hotshots.
It is quite unusual and a significant achievement for a single club to have three national team swimmers in their midst.
The GB team come together for the five yearly training camps held across the country where time trials are held and the team train together.
To qualify for the different competitions, the swimmers must swim their strokes under the qualifying time for each event, a huge achievement and reward for their hard work in training.
The European Championships events took place on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with daily finals in the evening.
Kick starting the event was a wonderful and vibrant opening ceremony where each of the participating national team teams were celebrated individually with music, banners and lots of cheering. The support from everyone, for everyone was all encompassing and heartfelt.
Each day of events marked triumph. The swimmers approached the starting block with nervous looks on their faces. The venue fell quiet for the start and then the audience and teams exploded with cheers at the sound of the starting buzzer. The support filled the room and every spectator was in awe of each swimmer and their achievements.
The event really showcased the importance of opportunity for people with disabilities and what they can achieve despite what some people may perceive as barrier. The swimmers showed everyone that no matter their ability or disability, they can achieve the same if not more than people without disability. The fact is disability is not a barrier, the barrier is the ignorance and preconceived ideas in the mainstream world that lead to the lack of opportunities for people with disabilities.
The event ended on Friday with a fabulous closing ceremony. It was announced that Team GB won the European Cup! With a total of 20 gold medals, 12 silver medals and 9 bronze medals, the cup for top boy with Trisomy 21 and top girl with Mosaicism, there was much to celebrate at the ensuing end of competition party.
And with fantastic personal best times for the Yorkshire boys, Will, Will and Jake, the whole week was a huge success and brilliant experience. Will Lake secured a place in the finals for two events and was first reserve for a third event. Will Browning was placed second for 200m Freestyle and third in 100m Freestyle, 50m Freestyle and 50m Backstroke in the Junior Competition.
All the excitement ended with the 18 countries at the gala dinner. With food, dancing, music and fun, the unity was felt by everyone there. No matter the nationality, ability or disability, everyone celebrated together. The trophies were awarded and celebrations of each swimmer’s achievements were held.
What an incredible moment for disability sport and a message to all. “Having a disability is absolutely no reason not to achieve in life, no reason not to have dreams and follow them, no reason not to win”
Please take the time to follow this link and see the account of the Paris journey - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxMpH9SNyrs