Swimmers with learning disability steal the show at Glasgow 2014 28 July 2014

England's Tom Hamer set a new British record to win silver and Wales' Jack Thomas took bronze in the Commonwealth Games Para-sport S14 200m freestyle. S14 is the classification given to swimmers with learning disability.

Jack Thomas, Daniel Fox and Tom Hamer

From left to right: Jack Thomas, Daniel Fox and Tom Hamer

The event, won by Australia's Daniel Fox, was the first at the Commonwealth Games for swimmers with learning disability.

Fox set a new world best of one minute 57.16 seconds in qualifying. But he failed to improve in the final, winning in 1:57.68, ahead of Hamer (2:00.27) and Thomas (2:01.27).

Hamer, 15, whose time beat the 2:01.27 set by Dan Pepper in 2011, was thrilled with his silver medal and British record. "I'm well chuffed. I'm so happy with it," said the Burnley swimmer.

Jack Thomas said: "I came in here ranked fourth so I didn't really expect a medal. I am really shocked," Thomas, 19, told BBC Sport.

Both swimmers went on to congratulate each other on Twitter, with silver winning Hamer Tweeting 'Well done to @JackThomas1995 on his bronze. That Aussie is going to take some catching. #swimfast #teamGB' to which Jack Thomas responded '@TomHamerS14 well done to you too pal. He'll be caught just gonna have to train hard!'.

Both Hamer and Thomas will be competing for Great Britain at the IPC Swimming European Championships, which take place in the Netherlands from 4-10 August.

UKSA vice chair Janice Eaglesham takes starring role in Commonwealth Games opening ceremony 24 July 2014

Opening Ceremony

Opening Ceremony

UK Sports Association for people with learning disability (UKSA) vice chair Janice Eaglesham was beamed into over 1 billion homes across the planet during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games on Wednesday 23rd July. Janice, who has sat on the board of UKSA for over a decade took a starring role in the ceremony.

The Queen's Baton started its 190,000 km journey on the 9th October 2013 before travelling around the Commonwealth for 288 days for the Queen's Baton Relay. Scottish adventurer Mark Beaumont carried the baton on the last leg of its journey into Celtic Park stadium before handing it to UNICEF friend, 12-year-old Jennica Sterling from Jamaica.

The baton was then passed from Jennica to a handful of sports volunteers from across Scotland including UKSA's very own Janice Eaglesham who passed it between each other, dressed in traditional Scottish kilts, in a choreographed formation of turns that looked spectacular.

Janice said: "I'm so, so proud to be part of the opening ceremony, and it's even more special that it's taking place in my home country. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity and truly an honour to have been chosen to take part in such a special event!"

With the ceremony nearing its conclusion, the volunteers, including 'our Janice' passed the baton to 97-year-old war veteran Andy Coogan, the great uncle of GB's most successful ever Olympian, Sir Chris Hoy. The six-time Olympic gold medallist describes Andy as his inspiration to become a sportsman.

The two men embraced in what was clearly an emotionally charged moment, before Andy passed on the baton to Sir Chris to pass to Commonwealth Games president Prince Imran of Malaysia. The baton, containing the Queen's message refused to open but Sir Chris came to the rescue. Afterwards he tweeted 'Blimey that was like trying to solve a Rubik's cube! #phew'

What an amazing start to what looks set to be an amazing games. #BringItOn

S14 para-swimmer Bethany Firth is breaking down walls at The Commonwealth Games 23 July 2014

Bethany Firth

Bethany Firth with her gold medal from London 2012 Paralympic Games (picture courtesy of Disability Sport Northern Ireland)


Glasgow 2014 is the most inclusive Commonwealth Games to date, with 300 para-athletes from more than 20 countries chasing 22 gold medals in cycling, athletics, swimming, powerlifting and lawn bowls.

Most encouragingly is the very first inclusion of an event for athletes with learning disability, in the men's 200m freestyle S14 (the classification given to swimmers with learning disability).

Unfortunately, there isn't a women's S14 race meaning that Paralympic gold medal winner Jessica Jane Applegate MBE won't get the chance to compete at these Games but with such a positive step forward in 2014, the future could see more events on the programme.

However, for 18-year-old S14 swimmer Bethany Firth, that hasn't proven a problem, as she has been selected to the Northern Ireland squad to compete in a seven able body events.

Bethany said: "Qualifying for The Commonwealth Games just shows how much hard work my coach has put in to get me to this standard. It's a privilege to be picked to represent Northern Ireland and to have the chance to swim in such a major competition with able bodied swimmers. I am very excited about it".

UKSA Tracey McCillen said: "What a fantastic achievement for Bethany, we're so thrilled for her and will be cheering her on during all her races!".

Having won a gold in the S14 100m backstroke at the London 2012 Paralympic Games whilst representing Ireland, and a further three silver medals at the 2013 IPC Swimming World Championships she decided to compete for GB.

Bethany isn't the only elite athlete with a disability from Northern Ireland who will be competing in a non-disabled event, her teammate sprinter Jason Smythe will also compete against non-disabled athletes.

A number of other London 2012 champions will be missing the action in Glasgow, notably Ellie Simmonds, Jonnie Peacock, Hannah Cockroft, Josie Pearson and Dame Sarah Storey as their Para-sport events are not part of the Glasgow programme either. "I'm very envious of those who have events at the Games," says amputee sprinter Peacock, who is also world champion in his 100m event. "It's great for those who have been selected to have a mainstream event which includes Para-sport races."

UK Sports Association for People with Learning Disability (UKSA) is the only organisation in the UK that focuses exclusively on elite sport for athletes with learning disability. UKSA implements, manages and leads the eligibility and classification system for athletes with learning disability. UKSA also select, manage and support the GB Team across a number of sport at European and World Championships, including the Inas Global Games and support athletes and their families in preparation for the rigors of international sport. UKSA also raise the profile of sport for people with learning disability and enable talented athletes to excel.

Bethany's events

Thur 24th July 

4 x 100m freestyle relay heat 2 (lane 3)

Fri 25th July

100m backstroke heat 2 (lane 7)

 

50m freestyle heat 7 (lane 8)

Sat 26th July

50m butterfly heat 4 (lane 1)

Sun 27th July

100m freestyle heat 3 (lane 3)

 

200m individual medley heat 2 (lane 3)

Mon 28th July

50m backstroke heat 4 (lane 1)

The Commonwealth Games demonstrate how disability sports can be integrated into major events, says Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson 17 July 2014

Eleven time Paralympic gold medal winner, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has welcomed the integration of disability sports into The Commonwealth Games which start next week. A total of 22 medals across five Para-sports will be up for grabs at Glasgow 2014, including a 200m freestyle event for S14 swimmers, which is the classification given to swimmers with learning disability on Saturday 26th July.

Thomas Hamer competes in the Mens 200m

Thomas Hamer competes in the Mens 200m

"The Commonwealth Games show that it doesn't matter if you are disabled or non-disabled," said Grey-Thompson. "The Commonwealth Games is the one event that does integration properly."

One of Britain's most successful disabled sports stars, Grey-Thompson added: "People who come to watch don't differentiate, they just want to see good sport."

The Glasgow 2014 Games are the very first Commonwealth Games to include events for athletes with learning disabilty.

Twenty-four-year-old Craig Rodgie will compete for Scotland and tweeted "I can proudly say that's me on the swim team for @Team_Scotland for #Glasgow2014" when his selection to the Scotland team was confirmed.

Nineteen-year-old Jack Thomas will represent Wales and recently tweeted 'Can't wait to get racing now, feeling fantastic in the water #CWG2014 #GoWales'

The youngest S14 swimmer to take part in the Games is fifteen-year-old Tom Hammer who will swim for England, he said: "I'm well excited about the competitions this summer. It's better than going on holidays and a great chance to represent my country.

The men's 200m freestyle S14 heat takes place on Saturday 26th July at 11.05am with the final taking place at 7.29pm. Follow the swimmers on Twitter: @jackthomas1995, @craigrodgie, @tomhamerS14

National Junior Athletic Championships showcase a new generation of performance athletes with learning disability 14 July 2014

South West Runner

South West Runner

Young members of the GB Team, which is selected and managed by the UK Sports Association for People with Learning Disability were among those to win medals at the recent National Junior Athletics Championships. The pan-disability event, which took place at Warwick University's athletics stadium in Coventry was organised by Disability Sports Events, an English Federation of Disability Sport programme and was attended by 250 young disabled athletes.

The event, now in its 25th year is remembered fondly by many elite disabled athletes, who began their golden careers at these Junior Championships. Paralympians Hannah Cockroft, Shelly Woods, Aled Davies and Hollie Arnold used the event as part of their development to become world-class athletes.

Athletes with learning disability are classified as T20 for track events and F20 for field events, and there was a strong mix of new and existing talent competing at this year's event. Nineteen-year-old GB Team member Martina Barber, continued her winning streak with a gold medal in the under 20's 200m final with a time of 27.7s only weeks after winning gold in the heptathlon at the Inas Open European Athletic Championships in the Netherlands. Martina's former teammate Stephanie Moore won silver in the same event with a time of 28.2s.

The event was the climax of all the recent regional qualifiers held around the country and a chance to spot future track and field stars. The talent of promising young athletes was showcased, including rising star Reece Palmer who is yet to make GB selection; he took gold in the under 20's 100m final with a time of 11.8s. Existing GB team member Daniel Pass took silver in the same race with a time of 11.9s.

UKSA Chief Executive Tracey McCillen said: "It's really positive to see so many talented young athletes with learning disability compete at this event, it's a chance to see the next generational of potential GB Team members in action and a fantastic event to signpost young athletes into a professional sports career!"

Jannine Walker, National Events Manager for the English Federation of Disability Sport, said: "What a weekend! We are always really proud to deliver this event, which is the annual highlight for many who enter year on year. It's a great starting block for those disabled athletes who want to develop their talent and move up through the different pathways. Not only do the young people go home with medals and personal bests, but they remember an enjoyable weekend full of social interaction, confidence-building and loads of fun."

Three British Athletes Selected for the 2014 Commonwealth Games 26 June 2014

Craig Rodgie in action

Craig Rodgie in action

Three British athletes with learning disability have earned the honour of being selected to represent their countries as swimmers in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The XX Commonwealth Games, which will take place from 24 - 29th July, will be the first Games that athletes with learning disability have been included in competition.

24-year-old Craig Rodgie has been selected to the Scotland Team, 19-year-old Jack Thomas chosen to represent Wales and 15-year-old rising star Thomas Hamer of Lancashire has been named to the England Team.

Craig won gold in the 100m backstroke at the 2009 European Championships in the S14 swimming classification for athletes with learning disability.

Jack is the current holder of the British S14 long course record in the 200m backstroke after his performance in Swansea in 2012.

Craig and Jack began their international careers at the Inas European Championships after being selected to represent Great Britain by the UK Sports Association for People with Learning Disability (UKSA).

Thomas said: "I am very excited to be competing at the Commonwealth Games, it's something I only dreamed about. I will do my best and train hard as I am so proud to be representing my country."

Thomas earned a gold medal and swam a personal best time of 02:01.91 in the 200m freestyle at the British Gas Swimming Championships in April, which took place in Glasgow, in the very same pool in which he will swim in at the Games.

From the 14th June to 23rd July, the Queen's Baton Relay will travel across Scotland to kick off the XX Commonwealth Games. GB Coach Tommy Patterson is taking part in the Queen's Baton Relay and he will carry the baton for roughly 200m at around 2:45 p.m. on Sunday 20th July in Glasgow's Shettleston district.

Tommy said: "It's been an honour and a privilege to be chosen to be a GB Team coach for Para athletes and also to be a Baton bearer in the Commonwealth Games Queens Relay. It really is a dream come true for me!"

UKSA Chief Executive, Tracey McCillen, said: "Congratulations to these three swimmers for reaching this level of competition. They demonstrate how with the right structure and support, talented athletes can excel on the international stage. We should all acknowledge the role that committed parents and staff play in the success of talented athletes. One such coach is Tommy Patterson, who has been selected to take part in the Queen's Baton Relay. We wish him the best of luck."

For more information on the Commonwealth Games visit www.glasgow2014.com.