Swim star Sam Downie off to the World Championships

Jonathan Sharples

TEENAGER Sam Downie has been selected for Great Britain in the World Para Swimming Championships in Madeira in June – and hopes it could be the start of a journey to the Paralympic Games.

He will now represent team GB in S8 400m freestyle, relay, and his favoured 100m backstroke.

The Musselburgh Amateur Swimming Club member was one of six Scots to make the British side heading out to the Portuguese island.

The 16-year-old will make his debut for the British team having impressed at the British Para Swim Meet in Aberdeen last month.

Speaking to Courier Sport, he said: “In Aberdeen I went under the time for the British swimming team policy to be selected for the World Championships.

“We got a phone call the Wednesday before the announcement that we had been selected and got told I had to keep it quiet between me and my coach.”

Downie trains more than 17 hours a week with East Lothian Swim Team (ELST) and his selection continues a proud tradition of the club developing para-swimmers.

Jamie Ward, ELST head coach, said: “I’ve been lucky to have been there or thereabouts for a large part of this journey with Sam.

“The selection for the Worlds team is absolutely out of this world to be honest, I didn’t expect it at this early a stage and I’m really proud of him that he’s made it.

“The sky is the limit, not just because of his age, but because of who he is. We are 100 per cent convinced that’s he’s got the talent to go to the very highest level of para-swimming and we are here to support him in that journey.”

Downie went on to break two Scottish and British records in 800m and 1500m freestyle last weekend.

He spoke of his excitement at joining up with the team in Madeira, saying: “I’m excited to get to know a lot of the team. I know a couple of people, but I don’t know everyone just yet so I’m looking forward to meeting the coaches, staff and the swimmers as well.”

Downie will enter the British squad as one of its youngest members but isn’t phased at the prospect having started his swimming journey at only 8-years-old.

He said: “When I went into the para Scottish squad I was the youngest, I was 11. I’ve been through being the youngest, so it doesn’t really bother me; I kind of like being one of the youngest swimmers, I just think it’s quite cool.

“I’m not someone that gets nervous or anything much, so I’ve adapted to the lifestyle quite easily.

“It’s something that I enjoy so it doesn’t phase me.

“I started doing it as an enjoyment thing and it’s became more serious but I’m always going to think about it as something I enjoy as well.”

Downie has caudal regression syndrome, a condition that mainly affects his back and the lower half of the body.

His mum Gillian Downie said of swimming: “It was the only sport that Sam’s consultants would allow him to participate in so really it’s given Sam a way to build his identity as an athlete and have some sort of focus as well. I’m incredibly proud of him.

“He came into this world with everybody not really giving him a bright future; we didn’t know if he’d walk, we didn’t know if he’d survive.

“His determination is second to none. His consultants and everybody at the hospital all rave about him. He’s a special boy.”

As well of hours of training, Downie also has to juggle the demands of National 5 courses at George Watson’s College in Edinburgh as he chases a career in sports science or coaching.

And he admitted: “I’m still working out how to balance swimming and schoolwork.”

But his school has been very supportive.

He said: “They’ve been very good: I do seven subjects instead of eight to give me some extra time to catch up on work I miss when I’m away, which helps me a lot.”

Speaking of the future, Downie, of Portobello, is hoping that his selection for the World Championships will bode well for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris.

He said: “That’s something that I’ve definitely got in mind.

“I’d like to go even if it’s just for an experience and then after that I feel like that I’ll keep going and hope to go to 2028 as well.

“It’s something I really want to do and always have from a really young age.”

He also spoke of his pride in representing the county at the highest level.

“It’s special,” he admitted. I love East Lothian as a club: I couldn’t see me swimming with anyone else.”

Downie has overcome many hurdles put in his way and hopes that his experience can help others.

He said: “I’d hope to inspire other people, and I hope I am.

“I want to get to know folk that I inspire too – I feel like that’s definitely something I want to do.”

He will now head to Sheffield this month to compete for the first time as a member of the GB set-up before travelling to Lanzarote in May in preparation for his first step onto the world stage.

 

Article is taken from the East Lothian Courier, written by Gregor Millar - find the article on the following link 

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