Triumphant Brits Make History at Inas World Swimming Championships
History was made by swimmers Billy Birchmore (Bickley, Kent) and Mark Holmes (Colchester, Essex), being the first athletes from the UK to compete and medal in the new pilot Down syndrome class at the Inas World Swimming Championships this weekend. Making their mark in style, both swimmers return home with an array of medals, four gold, three silver and two bronze, plus a World Record for Birchmore in the 50m Freestyle.
Both swimmers wowed the crowds and showcased new British talent on a new international world stage at the Inas event, made possible through a new collaboration announced recently by the UK Sports Association for People with Learning Disability (UKSA) and Down Syndrome Swimming GB (DSS-GB).
Led by GB Team Manager, Keith Holmes (Colchester, Essex), supported by Head Coach, Steve Birchmore (Bickley, Kent), the team were one of 20 countries competing at this important event, the coverage of which was broadcast live through livestream online.
Tracey McCillen, Chief Executive, UKSA said: “Wow, what a weekend it was – completely exhilarating to watch the action. Congratulations to the whole Team for their success, but a special mention for Billy – his array of medals from the event says it all.”
McCillen went on to say: "Congratulations are also in order for DSS-GB for their preparation and selection of the team. Clearly their work is producing some world class swimmers. I am delighted that we are working with them, the team did GB proud”.
Team Manager, Keith Holmes, said: “The event, which was possible to attend due to the new collaboration, was a resounding success. The GB Team were welcomed with such great hospitality by the Mexican organisers and this was backed up by a superbly organised event. We would hope to take a larger GB team next time.”
Head Coach, Steve Birchmore, DSS-GB said: “The swimmers performed to their maximum and their medal haul showed what a great effort they had made especially considering the altitude and increased events the swimmers competed in. We are really proud of Billy and Mark and a huge congratulations to the Mexican hosts for a superb event.”
Swimmers Billy Birchmore and Mark Holmes were treated like celebrities wherever they went in the town with local media running the event live each day. Reflecting on the Championships Billy Birchmore said: “It was a great experience which I really enjoyed. The swimming went well but I was tired from the altitude.”
Mark Holmes said: “I really enjoyed myself. I like the Mexicans, they are all nice and friendly.”
Earlier in 2017, Inas introduced two new pilot classes at this Championships, one of which is for swimmers with Down syndrome. This, together with the new DSS-GB and UKSA partnership has made it possible for this GB Team entry. A decision is now awaited from Inas on the future inclusion of the two new pilot classes in Inas Championships.
The event took place 27th November to 4th December 2017, in Aguascalientes, Mexico.
This is the first time that UKSA and DSSGB have collaborated to secure an entry at an Inas Championship event. The Great Britain Team is selected by DSS-GB and managed in collaboration with UKSA, the official Great Britain member of Inas, the International Federation for athletes with intellectual impairment, Down syndrome and autism.