The 6th Virtus Global Games were held on 4th-10th June 2023 in Vichy, France. The Virtus Global Games are the world’s largest elite sporting event for athletes with intellectual disabilities. More than 1,000 athletes from more than 80 countries from across Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania competed in 13 major sports.
Nine DSS-GB swimmers were selected by Sport Excel UK to represent Great Britain in the swimming pool in the new ii2 class for athletes with intellectual disability plus significant additional impairment. (There are two other classes – the ii1 class for athletes with intellectual disability and the other new class ii3 for athletes with autism)
The opening ceremony started with a vibrant parade through the old spa town with a colourful sea of national flags and dancing to the street band. We were proud that Ellen was selected as a flag bearer for GB at the Opening Ceremony.
In his speech to the assembled athletes, Andrew Parsons (President of the International Paralympic Committee) said “At the IPC we are committed to working with Virtus and international federations to develop greater opportunities for athletes with intellectual impairment to compete at the highest level in the Paralympic movement, and it gives me great satisfaction that this time we are seeing the ii1, ii2 and ii3 classes here. Congratulations to Virtus for such an achievement and make no mistake, athletes with intellectual impairment, Trisomy 21, Down syndrome, athletes with autism, YOU EXIST, therefore you are important for the International Paralympic Committee.”
The swimming took place at the beautifully sunny outdoor pool, Stade Aquatique at Bellerive. The temperature rose to 30 degrees as the days progressed. Mirrored goggles and sunscreen were a must. With warm-up at 7.30 am, morning heats at 9am, a break for lunch on site followed by afternoon finals ending at 7pm, this was not an event for the faint-hearted!
The quality of competitors was high and the racing was fierce, but the team outshone themselves, swimming out of their skins to achieve massive PBs and win 1 gold medal, 5 silver medals and 2 bronze medals between them. They rose to any challenges and should be so proud of the way they supported each other, competed, dealt with success and disappointment, and coped with the unfamiliar – no mean feat.
None of this would have been possible without the unwavering support of the poolside team Neil Lacey, Andrea Manson, Betty Logan and Ian Logan. Their duties extended beyond the anticipated but they were legends to the end. We are all extremely grateful for such loyal and loving volunteers. They are rewarded with being part of such an exciting and impressive team, sharing the highs and lows and watching the swimmers living the dream.
Silver medal: Helen Thompson (400m IM)
Silver medal: Zac Lacey (100m butterfly)
Bronze medal: Helen Thompson (400m freestyle)
Bronze medal: Jemima Rudd-Jones (200m butterfly)
Gold medal: Women’s 4x200m freestyle
Helen Thompson, Kathryn Martin, Jemima Rudd-Jones and Cerys McCrindle
Silver medal: Women’s 4x100m freestyle
Lizzie Allen, Helen Thompson, Kathryn Martin & Cerys McCrindle
Silver medal: Women’s 4x50m freestyle
Cerys McCrindle, Kathryn Martin, Jemima Rudd-Jones and Helen Thompson
Silver medal: Women’s 4x100m medley
Lizzie Allen, Helen Thompson, Jemima Rudd-Jones and Cerys McCrindle
Although not making it onto the podium this time, Mark Holmes should be commended for continuing to perform at such a high level – even after 20 years
of top level competing. His performances showed his experience, making 2 world finals and finishing in the top 15 in all his events.
William Roberts too pulled out all the stops, stepping up to the demands of a topflight event. He has shown rapid improvement and this resulted in a top placing of 9th, and thus 1st reserve for the world 200m IM final, with PBs in 3 of his 5 events.
Ellen Stephenson, the multiple world mosaic Down syndrome champion, had a challenging event, still classified in the much faster ii1 class. She broke 2 mosaic world records during the week and showed her class making it into the 200m backstroke final, coming 7th.
Lizzie Allen placed 6th, 7th, 8th, 8th and 10th with 2 PBs, plus 2 silver relay medals.
Zac Lacey placed 2nd, 5th, 6th and 12th with 4 PBs, and a silver individual medal.
Kathryn Martin placed 5th, 9th, 10th and 15th in her events with 3 new PBs with a gold and 2 silver relay medals.
Cerys McCrindle placed 4th, 5th, 6th and 9th in her events with 3 PBs and a gold and 3 silver relay medals.
Jemima Rudd-Jones placed 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 10th with 5 PBs, a bronze individual medal and a gold and two silver relay medals.
Helen Thompson placed 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 4th and 6th with 3 PBs, a silver and bronze individual medal, and a gold and 3 silver relay medals.
To sum up, the swimmers (and their support team!) would resoundingly do it all again. They loved meeting and competing against people from other countries, being in finals, winning medals, being on the podium, and being part of the team. Congratulations ALL!