Buckner excited by present and future for Tokyo team

8 Sep 2021

Ten days, 25 athletes on the team, 26 medals won and countless memorable moments made - Britain's para-swimmers certainly played their part in the unique and incredible spectacle that was the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. 

The Tokyo Aquatics Centre was the stage for more Paralympics GB medals than anywhere else. Reece Dunn finished as the team's most decorated athlete across all sports, with three golds, one silver and one bronze to his name, while Maisie Summers-Newton and Tully Kearney both broke world records on their way to Paralympic titles, in the Women's SM6 200m Individual Medley and S5 100m Freestyle respectively.

There were titles defended by the likes of Hannah Russell and Bethany Firth, an eye-opening relay triumph and world record in the Mixed S14 4x100m Freestyle Relay and a stunning silver for 17-year-old Ellie Challis in the S3 50m Backstroke, making Paralympics GB's youngest athlete at the Games also their youngest medallist.

British Swimming CEO Jack Buckner watched with pride as the team delivered on the sport's biggest stage in unusual circumstances and after the most challenging of 18 months in the build-up.

And reflecting on the Games that were, he believes it was the blend of youth and experience that came to the fore, with eight Paralympic debutants securing medals and no fewer than 14 swimmers overall making their Paralympic bows.

"It has been fantastic. It is a tough schedule, the Paralympics, and the team did so well all the way through," said Jack.

Ellie Challis SILVER S3 50m Backstroke [Getty].jpg
Ellie Challis

"It was a team with some really good, young stars. There was Maisie Summers-Newton winning two gold medals, Reece Dunn was the most decorated Paralympics GB athlete in Tokyo, there were brilliant swims from Tully Kearney.

"So you have people coming through, and then there was a bit of a transition with Ellie Simmonds and Ellie Robinson, with more senior members of the team.

"The fact it is such a young team, and for so many it was their first Paralympics, that felt really, really positive. Plus there is the way it seemed like the standards are rising everywhere in the sport, which I think is exciting for the para-sport movement - so it's just getting tougher and tougher, and we went out and produced, which was brilliant for the whole team, the athletes and the incredible coaching and staff team behind them.

"That thing of looking forward to the future, building sustainable success, is what we really like to do at British Swimming. We saw it in the Olympics, and then likewise in the Paralympics - a team with lots of talent, really good energy about them and plenty of scope for the future."

With no supporters able to be in the stands in Tokyo, the team behind the team has perhaps never been more important than at the Olympic and Paralympic Games of Tokyo 2020.

That goes for the staff on the ground in Japan, helping our athletes to perform in and out of the pool, as well as the family and friends back home, who played their part, in a virtual manner, from thousands of miles away.

"These Olympics and Paralympics have brought people together. It has helped to be a tight team, because of the pressure everyone has been under," added Jack.

Paralympics GB swimmers team prep Tokyo 2020 [Getty]
Final preparations on poolside at Tokyo 2020

"Everyone has had to rely on each other to pull themselves through it, and especially when you look back over the last 18 months, there have been a lot of really tough decisions - and having a team around has helped. I think people have really appreciated that.

"We have the mantra 'One Team Winning Well In Water', and that has come out and manifested itself really well. It has come across in the values and the way people have spoken.

"The team is now encompassing the families and the team behind the team, which is great. It feels like this Paralympics has been about the whole story, not just what the swimmers do, but what they are a part of, which I think is really powerful."

Paris 2024 is now less than three years away - and this team is already looking forward. For now, you can relive all those Tokyo memories with reports from the Olympics and Paralympics, across our news sections HERE.