Mark Holmes, Holly Bocking and Helen Thompson returned to training this week with Colchester Phoenix after a very successful 5 days at the Down Syndrome European Championships in Paris. They thanked the coaching team, headed up by Julie Jago, for training them to compete at an International Championships and brought their medals and certificates to show the Phoenix Squad.
Mark came away with 3 gold medals in 4x200m freestyle relay, 4x50m freestyle relay and 4x100m medley relay. The 200m relay was a thrilling race with the GB team half a length behind Portugal after the first 3 legs. Mark’s team-mate, Stephen Boyce, dived in for the final leg and swam the race of his life to snatch the gold for GB by half a second! The GB team had the biggest group of supporters at the Championships and the cheers could be heard in the surrounding area.
Mark also won 3 silver medals in 4x50m medley, 4x100m freestyle and the 400m Individual Medley where he smashed his own European Masters Record by an incredible 17s! He also won a bronze medal in the 50m backstroke and altogether swam in 7 individual finals, achieving 5 Personal Bests. Mark, at age 34, is a true legend, both at Phoenix and in the GB team, and he showed why in this Championships.
For Holly (aged 16) and Helen (aged 14) this was the first time they had been selected to represent the DSS GB Team, so both girls were nervous at the start of the week. However, they very quickly settled into the team and gave performances that surpassed expectations.
Holly achieved 6 Personal Best times in the Championships, and swam so well that she qualified for 3 individual finals where she further improved her times. She swam in the 50m and 100m backstroke finals and the 200m breaststroke final – an incredible achievement for a junior swimmer, and in fact the only junior in these finals! Her performances enabled her to be selected by Team GB to swim the breaststroke leg in the 4x100m medley relay, where she helped secure a bronze medal and a place on the podium. A really emotional moment for her family and GB supporters!
Helen is one of the youngest in the squad but also did her team proud with 5 Personal Best swims once she conquered her first day nerves. On Monday, she was heard to say that she didn’t want to swim in any finals as she was too nervous, but after cheering her team mates on to medal-winning performances and singing the National Anthem loudly for them, she soon realised what she was aiming for. Thursday saw her disappointed by narrowly missing a place in the 200m breaststroke final, with her teammate Holly pipping her to the 8th place by a little over a second. But on Friday she swam a thrilling 100m Individual Medley heat to get the 7th spot in the final; the only junior swimmer to qualify.
These fantastic performances along with those from all 31 Team GB swimmers, contributed to the Team GB total points score, and at the Gala Dinner on Friday night, DSS Great Britain were crowned overall European Champions!