TRURO – Two hundred athletes, 24 countries, eight lanes.
For a week, the Rath Eastlink Community Centre in Truro was host to the Down Syndrome World Swimming Championships, the ninth of its kind through the Down Syndrome International Swimming Organization and the first time it’s been held in Canada.
When all the medals were presented and points tallied, it was the team of 20 swimmers from Australia that came out on top with a total of 715 points.
To view a slideshow of photos from the event, click here.
“We’ve had a wonderful championships, really,” said Australia’s head coach John Beckworth. “We had over 100 personal best times, our medal count is the highest it’s ever been, and the people here have been very warm and friendly. Nothing was too much for them to look after for us and that made us feel very much at home.”
This was the fourth world championships Beckworth has attended, the third as head coach.
“I think the best day we had was (July 25). We had a number of swimmers come from behind and win gold medals…that was pretty special. The challenge (going into the final day) was to be able to back that up again and as a team they’ve done that.”
Following the Australian, Great Britain placed in second in team points with 684, and Italy came third with 609. Canada finished fourth, with a total of 458 points.
Through a translator, Marie Graftiaux said her experience with Team France was “wonderful.”
She spoke it in French, and when she heard ‘wonderful’ in English, she repeated it with a huge smile on her face.
Graftiaux has been swimming since she was young, and competed in various breaststroke and relays. She was taking home two medals – a silver in the 4x100m and bronze in 4x50m medley relays – and a fifth place finish in her breaststroke event.
“For worlds, this was my first one,” she said, with her translator also noting Graftiaux participated in the Trisomy Games and European Championships.
On the local level, Truro’s Matthew Hunter competed in six events, ending the competition with four top 10 finishes and three medals in the international section of the meet – 200m butterfly, 1500m freestyle, and 400m freestyle.
Mario Lemay, a translator for Team Canada, said this year’s worlds was the best of the three he’s attended with his 21-year-old son, Arnaud.
“First, because of the organization,” Lemay said. “It was the best of the ones I’ve been to. It was very nice.”
Lemay said everything went well for the team throughout the event. In the two previous worlds he attended, Canada had nine swimmers. This year, there was 24.
“We had a big team and everybody did great things and they improved themselves,” he said. “Arnaud swam 10 events and had nine (personal) best times. For him, it was a very good experience.”
During the closing ceremony, awards were handed out with Canadian Michael Qing taking home the best male athlete award in the mosaic category (a milder form of Down syndrome). Great Britain’s Ellen Stephenson won the best mosaic female athlete award, with Australian Aran Miller and Mexican Dunia Camacho taking the awards for the best T21 male and female athletes, respectively.