Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tom’s Paralympic dream is shattered

from Haverhill Echo:

The mother of Haverhill-trained swimming sensation Tom Cole has branded the classification system that will see him unable to compete at the Paralympics next year as “discriminating” against Down’s Syndrome.

Double World gold medallist Cole, 22, will be denied the once-in-a-lifetime chance to line-up in the Games in his home country due to a system which puts people with Down’s Syndrome into competition with people without any physical disabilities.

Cole, who holds six European Down’s Syndrome swimming records, alongside his two World Downs Championship gold medals, will be left to watch the drama unfolding on television next summer wondering ‘what if’.

The current system used by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) would only allow Cole to compete in an S14 category which covers learning disabilities with an IQ under 75.

But this does not take into account common Down’s Syndrome physical disabilities such as narrower windpipes and low muscle tone as well as restricted height.

Mrs Cole said: “We are gutted and every Down’s Syndrome swimmer in Great Britain feels the same.

“Physically there are things wrong as well as a low IQ and I cannot see how IQ would affect swimming.

“I do not know why the IPC do not recognise it when it is a disability you can diagnose before birth.”

Despite their family having launched a campaign for a change in the classification system and with MPs around the country having taken up the fight, nothing has worked with Mrs Cole claiming it is like hitting “a brick wall”.

Phil Ward, a West Suffolk Swimming coach who has worked with Cole, of Great Waldingfield, near Sudbury, at Haverhill Leisure Centre, labelled it “an uneven playing field”.

He said the fact Cole would come up against people much taller and healthier than himself, with far better muscle tone, meant he could not be capable of beating them in the pool.

A spokesman for the IPC said Down’s Syndrome athletes were a ‘very small group of people’ that it would not be realistic for them to cater for with their own classification.

He said classification had to be done by primary impairment, which, in the case of Down’s Syndrome, was deemed to be intellectual.

“We are driven by primary impairment and in the case of Downs it (physical) is a secondary impairment,” he said.


  1. Does anyone in the IPC actually know anyone with downs syndrome?what a lot of nonsense they speak! Some people with downs suffer more from physical disabilities than mental... It's a syndrome, each person with downs is affected differently, EVERY cell of their body has an extra chromosome, who knows what parts of each individual it will affect, mentally or physically. Most people with ds have hypotomia :Essentially hypotonia can be defined as the muscles lacking stamina. The muscles don't have the energy to keep working to a normal level. So a person with ds may seem to do everything just fine, but keep the same muscles working for any length of time and they will tire faster than a normal person's muscles.
    how unfair to make a person who has this compete against someone without?When you consider how muscles are tied to every physical endeavour we do, from eating, to talking, to facial gestures, to just sitting still, you can then start to appreciate the significance this has to an individual suffering from hypotonia. Hypotonia is devastating, more so in the earlier years of life.
    Just think about what battles Tom Cole has had to go through to achieve the level of swimming he has... And all the IPC can do is highlight any mental disability he may have and stop him competing in the paraoympics.

    1. I absolutely agree with you . My Downs Syndrome daughter competed 4 times internationally already and she is very motivated to swim but it is heart breaking for them to realize that they can never get to the level of a paralympic competition. The IPC should send delegates to the Downs SYndrome world competitions, like for instance the World Swimming Competition in Italy this year November and see the level of professionalism and talent and also see how many there are of "us". The World Downs Syndrome Congress is now in August in Cape Town- Something should be done!!!! A Special category for Downs Syndrome in the paralympics should be created- Downs Mom

  2. This is a very unfortunate story. People with disabilities must be treated equally in terms of giving or showing their talents and capabilities.

  3. I find it judicious and degrading, Yes, I strongly agree with you Nicola! The IPC should’ve been more understanding and consider Tom. He’s gone and won many gold medals in swimming despite his situation.

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  8. sad story wish you the best tom