Para-swimmers impressed the Manchester crowds this weekend as Scott Quin and Alice Tai were amongst record breakers at the National Para-Swimming Championships.
More than 220 para-swimmers took part in the long course event organised by Activity Alliance in partnership with British Para-Swimming. It included international medallists Eleanor Simmonds, Jessica-Jane Applegate, Eleanor Robinson and Thomas Hamer. There were three types of classification at this para-swimming event - physical (S1-S10), visual (S11-S13) and intellectual (S14).
Scott Quin, 28, was delighted at breaking the World record in the SB14 100m breaststroke in a new time of 1:06.24. Afterwards, the Warrender Baths swimmer said: “It’s my main event so this meet was really about seeing where I am in the season and how much I’ve learned since August. I was over the moon to get a personal best time, because my last one was two years ago in Rio. To see two years’ work now pay off, it’s starting to look good and it gives me confidence. Before this weekend, my best was 1.06.65 and my coach said to me to aim for 1.06/7 or close to my PB - I didn’t expect to break a world record!
“I swam a couple of weeks ago at a regional district competition. It was over short course, I broke personal bests, and a record, so I had a bit of confidence but short and long course are so different. When I came back in my second fifty I wasn’t fatigued as much, so I know my fitness is there.”
This year para-swimmers endured a packed schedule with April’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and the IPC European Championships in Dublin in August. Many at the Championships have their sights set on Tokyo 2020.
One of those hopefuls is Ealing swimmer Alice Tai, who was glad to be back on form following a few weeks of illness. The 19 year-old set a new European time in the S8 50m freestyle, clocking 29.81.
Tai has won medals at Paralympic, World and European level, including four gold medals in Dublin - three individuals in the S8 class and one in the 34pt 4x100m medley relay. She also claimed gold and silver at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in the 100m backstroke and 100m freestyle respectively.
On her new record, Tai said: “I’d set out the process with my coach and in the 50 it was not to breathe for the whole thing! That’s something I’ve never done before but I managed it. I’m happy with how it went - I feel like I have more fitness than I thought.
“I’ve not been training for the 50s and my training has actually been suited to the 200s, which is weird because it’s not even an event for me. It was a personal best, so it’s looking really good for next year.”
Other British record breakers included Ellis Challis in the SB2 50m breaststroke. Aged 14, the Colchester Phoenix swimmer has already won a collection of medals at previous national events. This weekend, she clocked 1.11.53 to take the title.
Louth swimmer Harvey Phillips, also 14, broke the S4 50m butterfly British record, in 1.04.74. New to the Championships, Reece Dunn (Plymouth) touched in 52.01 in the S14 100 freestyle, breaking a national record.
Many swimmers talk about their love for these championships as it enables new and established para-swimmers to compete against each other. It also gives spectators a chance to spot upcoming talent, including Leo McCrea, who won golds in all his seven events.
The 15-year-old recently picked up Swim England’s Talent Athlete of the Year Award. McCrea has progressed each year whilst on the England Talent Programme and is now on the British Para-Academy, the first step on to the World Class Podium programme.
The Bournemouth swimmer said: “This weekend has gone really well - I was really happy with my swims. I got a personal best in the 50m freestyle, which I’m close to a record in, and the 100m breaststroke. The best thing about this event is that there are so many people that I know.
“I was inspired to start swimming by my sister, when she started at a club. I then joined for two sessions and I really liked it. To other disabled people thinking about taking up swimming, I would say, just go for it and train well. Swim as well as you can and follow your goals.”
Activity Alliance gave away branded purple water bottles during the event to recognise the #PurpleLightUp campaign. This is to mark United Nations’ International Day for Disabled People, celebrated on 3 December every year.Please click the link to access the results. Catch up on the conversation through the event hashtag #ParaSwim18