SA’s Down Syndrome swimmers win silver

2010-10-14 00:00

TWELVE years of swimming at junior and senior national level have finally paid dividends for Jonathan “Johno” Fergusson (27), who was recently tasked with coaching the South African Down Syndrome Swimming team.

The SA Down Syndrome swimming team returned home on Saturday from Taipei, Taiwan, with six new world records and 21 South African records during the fifth world championships.

The Down Syndrome International Swimming Organisation (DSISO) was formed about 12 years ago. DSISO realised that swimmers with Down Syndrome were being outclassed in competitions by people with other learning disabilities who do not have the same physical disabilities often associated with Down Syndrome.

Fergusson, who is a member of the Penguins Swimming Club, told The Witness, “It was an honour to represent my country and bring home 35 medals to make us runners up to Australia.”

Team SA returned with eight gold, 10 silver and 17 bronze medals.

“It was a great achievement for us if you consider the fact that Australia and Britain had about 30 swimmers — and we only had 12 — to compete in the world championship,” said Fergusson.

He said he had been preparing swimmers for two years, little knowing that he was going to be the SA coach for Down Syndrome Swimming Team.

“I was urged by two of my swimmers to apply for the position and I was happy to be nominated for it.”

Fergusson lives in Chase Valley and lectures sports management at Varsity College in Pietermaritzburg.

Two months before leaving for Taiwan, he was in the United States and Netherlands to be trained by some of the world’s best swimming coaches. While in the U.S. he worked with Frank Buch of Arizona University, who has coached of best swimmers in the world.

His work includes working with the Aquarius and Sunfield swimming clubs in Raisethorpe and Howick.

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