On Friday the 16 September 2006, six young adults namely Fiona Dawson, Catherine Kennedy, Laura Arbuckle, Nicola Keppie, Paul Fraser and Alan Jardine with the assistance of their parents set off for the May Phillips National Down’s Syndrome Swimming Gala held in Reading. They are all members of swimming clubs based in the West of Scotland and so the team was called Scotland West. As the minibus headed for the motorway the excitement and anticipation of what was ahead was building. Eight hours on we (still very excited) arrived at the Travelodge where we would be staying for 2 nights. This was followed by a tour of Reading town centre, taking in all the sights but really just looking for a restaurant and place to park.
On the day of the gala we arrived at the swimming pool in plenty of time where we were made very welcome by everyone. The gala started and the Scotland West swimmers were in the medals right away helped along by a great vocal support from those who had come with them. Each swimmer was allowed to take part in a maximum of 3 races and a relay race. By the end of the gala the team had won 19 medals and had a number of personal best times which was an absolutely brilliant achievement and no more than they deserved. As a result some of the swimmers were approached with the possibility of joining the British team which was just the icing on the cake.
Heading back to the accommodation the minibus was rocking to the sounds of the swimmers singing their celebration songs such as Queens “We are The Champions” and chants of “Scotland West Is The Best”.
The team with their medals around their necks then went for a celebration dinner at the Beefeater in Southcote Lane in Reading. The staff were excellent and took a genuine interest in the swimmers and their medals and also arranged for a winners table so all the swimmers could sit together and a separate table for the parents (not sure who was happier about this arrangement the swimmers or the parents). After an excellent meal and service we headed back to the Travelodge.
The next day the excitement was probably just down a bit short of fever pitch as we headed back up the motorway all arriving home safely with nothing more than sore ears from the numerous songs that were sung on the journey.
When the swimmers met two days previously they had only seen each other at swimming galas but now on their return were not only all medal winners but good friends as well.
Our thanks go to Diane Dart, organiser of the national gala and all the poolside officials whose efficient and friendly manner made this an excellent run gala.
Also to the staff at the Beefeater who spent a lot of time to make sure that it was a special occasion.
A special thanks must also go to Down’s Syndrome Scotland, West Of Scotland Branch for covering the cost of the accommodation and travelling expenses. This was very much appreciated by all involved.
Lastly a big thank you to the swimmers from their proud families.
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