Four members of Richmond Dales Amateur Swimming Club have returned from the 10th World Down Syndrome Swimming Championships in Portugal with a haul of medals and several world records.
Ellen Stephenson, Jake Vicars, Harvey Stonebank and William Lake, all of whom have achieved great success in domestic competition, flew to Albufeira earlier this month where they represented Great Britain whilst competing in a packed swimming programme spanning several days.
Qualifying for the World Down Syndrome Swimming Championships was achievement enough, pitting Ellen, Jake, Harvey and William against some of the best Down Syndrome swimmers in the world. Once there, however, the Richmond Dales swimmers didn’t disappoint, winning an amazing 15 medals and smashing 6 Mosaic World Records during the competition.
At just 18 years old, Ellen Stephenson won gold medals and achieved Mosaic World Records in the 100, 200, 400 and 800 meter freestyle as well as the 50, 100 and 200 backstroke events. She also won a sliver medal in the 100 medley event. 18-year-old Harvey Stonebank won gold in the 200 medley, as well as a clutch of sliver medals in the 50 and 100 backstroke, and the 50 breaststroke. Harvey rounded proceedings off in style with bronze medals in the 50 freestyle and 50 butterfly. William and Jake, meanwhile, performed outstandingly in a packed international field, achieving many personal best times and making a huge impression along the way.
Richmond Dales ASC, which is based out of Richmond Pool and Catterick Leisure Centre, has broad provision for swimmers of all ages and abilities. The club enjoys regular mainstream success at County, Regional and National level, and offers excellent programmes for masters and para swimmers also. The club has also been recently named as Swim England North East’s Club of the Year and is shortly going up against other regional winners for the title of overall Swim England Club of the Year 2022.
The club’s growing reputation as a force to be reckoned with in the Para swimming field is evident in some of its recent successes, including two swimmers being selected for the National Age Group Development Programme and another selected to be part of Swim England’s Para swimming talent programme. What’s more, the club has recently welcomed the next generation of young para swimmers to the club thanks to it’s successful ‘Start Para’ scheme, a programme supported by Swim England North East.
All four swimmers are hugely proud of their achievement at the World Championships, with William Lake commenting:
“I enjoyed the whole competition! The swimmers, coaches, support team and parents were amazing. I got 3 personal bests! I loved being with my Down Syndrome Swimming GB family and supporting my friends. It was a great expereince.”
Ellen Stephenson adds:
“I feel proud of my swimming at the World Championships. I felt that my swimming technique has improved and I was happy with all of my swims. It was great being part of the team as everyone swam so well. I am excited and proud to be part of team GB, who are now World Champions.”
Jake Vicars’ Mum, Hilary commented:
“Jake loved his first world games and feels very privileged to be part of such an amazing team. He showed his competitiveness in the games, resulting in some excellent PBs. He loved the camaraderie in the team and cheering each other on. To be in a team where they all contributed to the points tally and have come out as world champions is something some people can dream about, but Jake can say ‘Yes! I did it!’.”
Richmond Dales ASC coach, Keith Hall, is keen to point out that the athletes’ success is a community effort, saying:
“As a club, we couldn’t’ be more delighted that Ellen, Jake, Harvey and William have performed so well at the World Down Syndrome Swimming Championships. It’s such a great achievement for them and they have done themselves, their country and their club proud. However, none of this would be possible without the generous support of some key benefactors. The costs associated with attending a five-day competition, along with travel and accommodation, should not be underestimated.
He goes on:
Fortunately, thanks to donations from the community and local businesses we were able to offer the athletes and their families some financial support to help with the costs of attending these World Championships. Moreover, their support over the years has helped get the squad to this point. We believe it’s an investment worth making, so to those who have contributed, you know who you are, and we would really like to thank you.”
The whole of Richmond and the surrounding area should be proud of Ellen, Harvey, William and Jake.