16-year-old Sussex swimmer triumphs at the inaugural British Down Syndrome Swimming Championship

K2 Crawley hosted the first British Down Syndrome Swimming Championships last weekend.

Over 135 swimmers from across the country participated in the largest swimming event of its kind at the Crawley sports venue. Swimmers competed in four age categories, ranging in age from 10 to 50 years old and took part in races from 25 meters to 1500 meters.

The surprise of the championships came from 16-year-old Bexhill swimmer Gabriel Kenchington, swimming the first competitive meet of his life. Gabriel won gold for his age category in all seven of the races that he entered at the championship, beating his personal bests in the process.

This was not the end of Gabriel’s achievements, his swim times won him the ‘British Champion Title’ in three events. This included his 25-metre backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly in the open category across all age groups.

Gabriel celebrating his parents Rachel and Gary Kenchington

Gabriel said: “It’s amazing that so many of my friends and family came to support me and when we got home we saw my races on YouTube. I didn’t know I could swim like that!”

His swim story began with a very practical goal. When Gabriel was born with Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21), his parents Rachel and Gary Kenchington, who met at Hazelwick school and have family in Crawley, were advised to let Gabriel take part in activities that would build his core muscles. From the age of 4 months, swimming was the first of many sports that Gabriel enjoyed, which helped him gain control of his condition.

London-born, Gabriel grew up in Greenwich before moving to East Sussex when he was nine. He joined Bexhill Swimming Club almost a year ago, and has trained hard for the first Down Syndrome Swimming Championships at K2, Crawley.

Gabriel competing

Gabriel’s mother, Rachel said: “We had come to think that our son Gabriel was a good swimmer, but had no idea he was capable of pushing through every barrier, boundary, and surpassing every single expectation as he and so many others did. Gabriel came away with seven gold medals including three British Championship titles. He beat every single one of his personal bests.”

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