This year the Peterborough Special Olympic Swimming Team has been selected as the beneficiaries of the Oundle School 24-hour non-stop charity swim. The swim is due to take place from Saturday 28 February to Sunday 1 March, with eight fifth to upper-sixth-form (years 11-13) pupils swimming in relays throughout the day and night. Members of the Special Olympic team will swim alongside the Oundle pupils for the first half hour, providing an opportunity for them to thank the pupils who are raising money for them.
William Roberts (15), son of Oundle School housemaster, Huw Roberts and Dr Joh Sydenham, who works in the school’s DT department, started swimming lessons with the Oundle Otters, based at Oundle School’s swimming pool, when he was four years old and now swims for the Special Olympic team.
Charity swim organiser and pupil Alice Poulter (18) commented: “We chose to raise funds for this amazing charity because it is very close to the hearts of the swimming coaches at Oundle who have taught William from a very young age. This charity provides the opportunity for swimmers with disabilities to compete against other swimming teams. We aim as a team to cross the equivalent of the English Channel in the space of the 24-hour period in a continuous relay. We are very excited that a relay team from the Peterborough Special Olympic Swimming team are going to do the first leg of the relay with us.”
William’s mum Joh said: “William has Downs Syndrome and needed a little extra help to get him started. Julie Clipstone, Teresa Black and all of the staff at Oundle Otters provided fantastic support and encouragement, but in particular Carine Barron, and Adie Black, who literally taught him hand over hand how to swim.”
Over the years William has progressed through his swimming qualifications alongside his peers and now has numerous badges sewn on his swimming towel. He continues to swim every Saturday with the Otters and helps Ed Tate coach one of the younger groups of swimmers.
In March 2014, William joined the Peterborough Special Olympic Swimming Team, affiliated to the City of Peterborough Swimming Club (COPS), training twice a week at the Regional Pool. He has taken part in regional and national galas and has won four gold, three silver and one bronze medal. He will soon take part in his first European competition.
William is one of 25 members of the Peterborough Special Olympic Swimming Team, all of whom have a learning difficulty and some with a physical disability as well. The group has four important roles:
• It gives the swimmers a chance to be part of a team, to feel a sense of pride and achievement, to enjoy the success of winning, to learn to support each other in times of disappointment, and have aspirations to improve, develop and succeed
• It helps them to be fit and healthy
• It helps them foster friendships and develop social skills
• It is a support network for the parents sharing information and problem solving the many issues they have to face.
All the committee members, coaches and other helpers are volunteers and rely on charitable donations to fund attending galas and to buy equipment for training. The swimmers attend four or five galas a year and every four years they compete in the UK National Special Olympic Games. This year they are saving up to buy the Infinity Start System with auditory and visual start signals to help with competition training, especially for new team members.
Oundle Otters swimming lessons for children are held on a Monday and Friday after school and Saturday mornings. Catering for all ages, including adults, the pool provides various lessons and activities during term time and in the holidays. The 43.5 metre pool is open to the public through an annual membership.