Para-swimming event “they’ll remember for a lifetime”
WITH exactly 3 months until the Commonwealth Games starts in Birmingham, the London Youth Games ParaGames Swimming event took place in Beckenham Spa.
The event on 28 April was open to 11-18 year olds with a range of impairments from across London’s boroughs. It is part of the ‘Open Games’, which young people who either live or go to school in a London borough can compete in. The ‘Open Games’ is delivered in partnership with Nike and our 33 London local authority members.
The competition is one of the most highly contested of the ParaGames calendar, with separate swimming races for young people with physical, intellectual and sensory impairments. 101 boys and girls competed in separate individual and relay races for each of the 3 types of impairment.
The young people the ParaGames provides for have been amongst the most isolated in society during the pandemic. Uncertainty and fear around coronavirus has also impacted their mental health. These events seek to create inclusivity for young people with a range of impairments and give them the opportunity to boost their mental health through exercise. Plus, it gives them a chance to socialise with other children and take pride in representing their community.
Andy Dalby-Welsh said: “My own lived experience of being registered blind and benefitting from sport has shown me on a very personal level how important these opportunities are for young people. Sport has the power to change lives. For these young people swimming today, it gives them a huge confidence boost to represent their borough at the Games. For some of these young people, it’s the first time they’re getting the chance to be a part of a big competition. We want our events to be as inclusive as possible, because sport is a right for all.”
The ParaGames competitions run by London Youth Games have been taking place for over 23 years. In 2022, there are 13 inclusive competitions across the School and Open Games, ranging from Boccia to Sitting Volleyball to Athletics.
Elena, swimmer from Greenwich said: “I’m deaf and I’ve never been to a competition for disabled people before. This was my first time competing and it felt really amazing to compete with people who have things in common with me.
When I swim, I’m completely deaf and can’t hear anyone. Knowing that I can do anything, even when I have a disability, makes me feel unbeatable. I have a passion for swimming, it makes me feel comfortable, relaxed and makes me feel happy!”
Dan Hayden, Richmond Team Manager said: “There’s a lot of excitement from the children to be back after 2 years, they can’t wait to share that they’ve been at the London Youth Games with their friends. You can’t even measure how much this means to them. It helps them so much, they’ll remember this for a lifetime.”
Toby, participant from Wandsworth, said: “It’s good to get out and show that you can swim, even though I’m in a wheelchair. It feels good to swim because it’s something I can do.”
Grace Alleyne, Wandsworth Team Manager said: “It’s really important that we have safe spaces like this for these young people to get involved in sport. In terms of their mental health, it’s incredibly beneficial. They overcome so many barriers in their everyday life and it’s so important for them to have these experiences and be included in sport, from the endorphin release to the confidence. They just can’t wait to get in the water!”
Yolanda, participant from Wandsworth said: “Swimming makes me feel more comfortable than walking or just standing, because I find it hard to walk and I find swimming much easier. Today’s my first time at a competition, but I don’t really mind if I win the race or not, I just want to try and do my best.”