No less than 13 Championship Records were broken yesterday in Grangemouth at the 40th SDS Junior Swimming Championships for swimmers with a physical or sensory impairment.
The event is one of the oldest on the SDS Calendar and the fact that so many records were broken is a testament to the rude health that para-swimming finds itself in. The next generation of swimmers coming through our branches and regions smashed personal best times across the classes and entries were up overall and from key areas where targeted development has taken place, such as the Scottish Borders, Tayside and Highland to name just three.
West of Scotland’s Abby Kane – the Rio Paralympic silver medal winner from Largs – was one of the stars of the show in claiming 5 gold medals and 4 Championship Records (CR) at the event. The only CR to escape her is the 50m breast-stroke record currently held by Fife’s Lara Ferguson – a Paralympian in Sydney and Athens – and shows the level the young swimmers are aspiring to. Abby was pushed all the way by Beth Johnston from the Scottish Borders, who was the previous CR holder for the 4 events Abby claimed yesterday. The quality of swims these two produced in their 5 races, alongside the many other fine performers on the day, was something to behold and all who were in attendance recognised this event will be seen as one of the very strongest in its history, with swimmers of the highest calibre competing.
Fife’s Oliver Carter definitely fits the bill in this respect too. The progress of this remarkable swimmer from Carnegie can be charted by a quick analysis of his times in this event alone. Every year Oliver has competed and every year his times improve almost exponentially. Oliver smashed the 1-minute barrier in the 100m Freestyle event he got so close to last year and – similarly to Abby – went on to claim 5 golds and 4 Championship Records. One of the records was the 25-year-old record in the 50m breaststroke held by another Fife Paralympian, Iain Matthew. The fact that Iain was the 1992 gold medallist in the 100m Breastroke at the 1992 Barcelona games only serves to highlight the quality of Oliver’s swim. The only CR escaping Oliver was Robert Dalgleish’s 50m Backstroke record from 2011. Robert from Lothian was on hand to witness some of these swims and kindly presented some medals to our successful swimmers alongside Jim Anderson OBE and Colette Martin. Robert joined his great friend and rival Stefan Hoggan in attendance, Stefan was fulfilling a role as Announcer-in-Training, shadowing the best in the business, Paul Noble MBE, who has undertaken this role for SDS at both the junior and senior events for years.
Lewis McCulloch from Port Glasgow Otters had another phenomenal Championship, following on from his Best Male Performer award last year. Lewis bettered the CR in all five events he competed in. He was extremely unfortunate to miss out on the Best Male Performance for 2017, the award, this year, going to Oliver in recognition of his exceptional performances in his races and the records he broke.
A big thanks should go to Falkirk Community Trust, all staff at Grangemouth Sports Complex and the many officials and volunteers from Scottish Swimming, marshalled by Jean King, and the SDS Branches who support the event so much.
Photo: Oliver Carter (Fife) & Abby Kane (West of Scotland) – Best Male & Female Performers of the 2017 Championships