The Junior Swimming Championships are one of the longest running in the national calendar organised by Scottish Disability Sport (SDS) and next year we celebrate the fortieth edition of the Junior Championships for swimmers with a learning disability – the major occasion of the junior swimming year. SDS was pleased to return to Tollcross International Aquatics Centre for the 39th edition which assisted in inspiring further record-breaking performances at a venue considered amongst the best in the world.
Paralympians from Scotland have represented their Branch junior teams in the past with distinction. One of Scotland’s leading swimmers is Scott Quin from Lothian. Scott won a silver medal in 100m Breaststroke SB14 at the IPC World Championships in July last year at this very venue before repeating this achievement at the Rio Paralympics where he lost the gold by a whisker to his GB stablemate Aaron Moores in arguably the most thrilling finish seen at the games. Scott is a great supporter of the Junior Championships, competing many times for Lothian and was sorry he couldn’t join us at the event to see the next wave of swimmers coming through.
This year’s event, as with last year, was supported by the Sports Council for Glasgow and SDS is hugely grateful to the Sports Council for Glasgow for their significant support, enabling the event to take place at Tollcross. It is hugely exciting for our swimmers to compete again in such an impressive venue and it really allows the championships to exist in an arena worthy of the effort put in from the participants.
Youngster Tamsin Neef (Highland) followed her outstanding year in 2015 with an even more successful visit this year. Neglecting the early morning start required in 2015 to travel in from Skye, Tammy decided to stay the night before to ensure she was well rested for her personal assault on the Championship Records (CR) held by Perth’s Reagan Doig. Tammy was successful in breaking the 50m Backstroke CR in a time of 35.07 and was just outside the others but retains the ambition of making these records her own in future years – as a relative youngster she has plenty of years left to do this. Tammy was a clear winner of the trophy for ‘Best Female’ of the Championships.
A feature of these championships in the last few years have been the enthralling battles between Rhys Handleigh from Dumfries & Galloway and rivals that present themselves each year. Highland’s Dean Brannen fulfilled this role in 2014, Louis Lawlor (West of Scotland) and Christian Buchanan (Lothian) had designs on his titles in 2015 but this year it was the turn of Tayside’s Jack Milne to go head to head with the D&G swimmer. And what a battle it was; Rhys added to his collection of gold medals with a championships record in the 100m Freestyle along with a first place finish in the 100m Individual Medley. With the title on a knife-edge the ‘Best Male’ of the Championships was awarded to Jack for his exceptional performances in the 50m Breast Stroke, 50m Butterfly and the 50m Backstroke where he finished ahead of last year’s ‘Best Male’ Rhys Handleigh.
Yet again Scottish Disability Sport was able to call on a great team of volunteers and officials to ensure the smooth running of the event in testing circumstances due once again to the weather and number of withdrawals and we thank the officials – very able co-ordinated for the last time by Colin MacDonald – who assisted on the day. An article on Colin and his wife Carolyn appear elsewhere on this site, however SDS would like to place on record their appreciation of the unstinting support Colin and Carolyn have given the organisation for over a decade.
Branches are working on wider engagement and all now should have ready access to or are running qualification galas for this event which greatly helps the organisation and implementation of the national championships through the increased experience of swimmers and accurate timings and this should continue to be encouraged within branches and their links to key local partners including clubs, leisure trusts, education, local authorities and other leisure providers.
SDS hope that many more young people in Scotland are inspired to take up swimming following Rio 2016 and hope that the partnerships within the branch areas and regions can allow this to happen.