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Meet the magnificent seven swimmers representing Yorkshire in the Special Olympics

Intensive training pays off for members of Kirklees Disability Squad

Borough of Kirklees Disability Swimming Squad (from left) Joanne Kempley, Emily McKevitt, Zoe Rank, Jack Drennan and Aisling Connelly .

Meet Huddersfield’s magnificent seven!

Swimmers from Borough of Kirklees Disability Squad have been selected to represent Yorkshire and Humberside at the Special Olympics GB National Games next week.

Aisling Connelly, 23, Emily McKevitt, 18, Jack Drennan, 20, Joanne Kempley, 27, Rebekah Hill, 24, Ruben Reuter, 17, and Zoe Rank, 21, will be accompanied by their swimming coaches Gemma Hill-Wood, Ed Lim and Olivia Davies for the five-day event in Sheffield, at which around 2,600 athletes will compete.

The event runs from August 7-12. The opening ceremony will be held at Bramall Lane Stadium on August 8.

All seven swimmers have each qualified for three events as well as the regional relay team, giving parents and supporters hope that medals will be returning to Huddersfield along with some personal best times.

The septet was selected to be part of the 50-strong Yorkshire and Humberside Team due to their hard work, dedication, commitment and achievements.

Alison Rank, of Fenay Bridge, mother of Zoe, said: “It’s a massive thing.

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“Certain criteria has to be met. Our swimmers have had to obtain qualifying times from competitions held during the last 12 months and have travelled as far as Swansea to obtain these, proving their determination to do well.

“The swimmers train a minimum of twice a week and have been fitting in additional sessions in preparation for this major event.”

The Special Olympics National Summer Games is held every four years and represents a huge opportunity to showcase the abilities of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, allowing them to compete at a national level, experience the personal achievement this brings, as well as enable them to make friends, travel and socialise. Swimmers in the Borough of Kirklees (BOK) squad have a range of disabilities including learning difficulties, Down’s Syndrome, Williams Syndrome and autism.

Formed in 2004, the Kirklees Disability Squad has provided a much-needed service for young people with a disability who enjoy the sport. The squad grew from the provision of swimming lessons by Kirklees Active Leisure and now boasts 12 competitive swimmers who attend Special Olympics competitions at both local and national level.

Alison adds: “We have some amazing volunteer coaches, brilliantly supportive parents and of course, our wonderful swimmers, and are known at local competitions for being the most vocally supportive group!”

Ticket prices for the opening ceremony at Bramall Lane start from £5 and are available at www.sufc.co.uk/special-olympics

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