Featuring a total of 600 athletes competing for 148 medals, swimming is the second biggest competition at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Huw Griffiths is the National Disability Development Officer for Swim Wales.
Here he talks about developing the next generation of swimmers, both for elite and general participation in Wales.
The big word for us in disability swimming is integration. The work we are doing now is to make sure that disability swimmers are able to swim at a traditional mainstream clubs, and alongside able bodied swimmers when they are ready to.
It happens at the highest level at the British Swimming performance centre in Swansea, and should happen at clubs throughout Wales.
Performance training for disability swimmers needs to take place at performance clubs as that’s the only way we can ensure potential is reached.
We are working with clubs to ensure that happens. Of course, for some clubs there is uncertainty because it is a new concept, but we’re working hard to bring them on board with the disability pathway and make themselves disability friendly.
There needs to be good communication from learn-to-swim providers so that those swimmers who have the potential and enthusiasm to swim with a performance club are given the opportunity to do so.
Developing Paralympic swimmers is the same as developing Olympic swimmers – they all need to go through the same path.
Last year, we saw a big step forward in Swim Wales’ attempts to highlight the aquatic pathway for swimmers with a disability. We wanted to make sure that it was clear, seamless and most of all completely integrated and follows the exact path that swimmers without a disability follow.
The first step was placing an integrated programme of events into the Swim Wales easter and summer national events. This was a way of showing all attending clubs that there was a competitive side to disability swimming – not just the Paralympics - and was the start of developing a parallel programme that could be followed.
The next stage was to restructure the squad system. In the previous years, the disability squads had been a separate entity to the non-disabled squads. As of last year the skills, regional and national squads have been integrated. This has been a success this year and illustrates how Swim Wales is leading by example to ensure that we are able to attract and retain talented swimmers and develop them for the future. We currently have six swimmers on a World Class Programme, 7 swimmers in our National Elite Squad, 5 swimmers in our Regional Squads and 3 swimmers in our Regional Skills Squad.
Another key for us is finding the hidden talent that is out there in schools and learn-to-swim sessions throughout the country. Primary schools are important because it is important we identify the next generation of swimmers early enough to be able to give them that grounding in the sport.
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