sport

Swimmers "a credit to Huddersfield" after triumphing at Special Olympics

Medal haul includes gold, silver and bronze

Swimmers with Borough of Kirklees Disability Swim Squad, who together won 15 gold, silver and bronze medals at the 2017 Special Olympics GB National Games in Sheffield. Left to right: Emily McKevitt, 18, Ruben Reuter, 17, Olivia Davies (coach) Ed Lim (coach), Zoe Rank, 21, Rebekah Hill, 24, Gemma Hill-Wood (coach), Aisling Connelly, 23, Joanne Kempley, 27, and Jack Drennan, 20.

Seven Huddersfield swimmers have returned from the four-day Special Olympics GB National Games in Sheffield with a haul of medals.

They picked up a gold, seven silver and six bronze medals between them, plus a gold in a relay race.

The team - Emily McKevitt, Ruben Reuter, Zoe Rank, Rebekah Hill, Aisling Connelly, Joanne Kempley and Jack Drennan - are all members of Borough of Kirklees Disability Swim Squad.

Together they competed before thousands of people at the Ponds Forge International Sports Centre as part of the games, a showpiece event held every four years for athletes with intellectual learning difficulties.

They were accompanied by their volunteer coaches Olivia Davies, Ed Lim and Gemma Hill-Wood.

“Our seven swimmers all rose to the challenge of the event and pulled out some fantastic performances to capacity crowds at Ponds Forge,” said Gemma.

“The swimmers have had to get up at 5.30am each day, which has been a challenge in itself, so it has been even more amazing that they have pulled some brilliant swims out of the bag.

“The days have been long but incredibly rewarding for both the swimmers and the coaching team.”

Thumbs up! Swimmers and teachers with Borough of Kirklees Disability Squad set off for the Special Olympics GB National Games in Sheffield. Front: Zoe Rank, Aisling Connelly, Rebekah Hill. Middle: Gemma Hillwood (teacher), Jack Drennan, Emily McKevitt, Olivia Davies (teacher). Back: Joanne Kempley, Ruben Reuter. The group - Zoe Rank, Aisling Connelly, Rebekah Hill, Joanne Kempley, Ruben Reuter, Jack Drennan and Emily McKevitt - are all members of and will represent Yorkshire and Humberside at the five-day event, at which around 2,600 athletes will compete.

The swimmers were supported by parents. Alison Rank, mother of Zoe, praised the team for their professionalism and sportsmanship.

“The whole experience was absolutely amazing.

“For every single parent it was nerve-wracking at the poolside watching them swim until they got the first medal. Then we could relax a little.

“It wasn’t just the swimmers that got excited; we all did. The atmosphere was electric. It brought tears to your eyes.

“We are the proudest parents in the world: we are just bursting with pride for every single thing that they have achieved.

They are a credit to the entire town. We should have them on an open-top bus going through Huddersfield. It’s a massive achievement.”

The Special Olympics GB National Games showcases the abilities of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, allowing them to compete at a national level. Swimmers in the Borough of Kirklees (BOK) squad have a range of disabilities including learning difficulties, Down’s Syndrome, Williams Syndrome and autism.

The squad boasts 12 competitive swimmers who compete at both local and national level.

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