Edinburgh teenager finishes in world top ten for his 400m freestyle race

An Edinburgh teenager has qualified to join the team GB debut world para-swimming championships after finishing seventh in the world para swimming freestyle race as the youngest contestant to compete.

By Annabelle Gauntlett
Friday, 1st July 2022, 10:54 am
Updated Friday, 1st July 2022, 10:56 am
Sam Downie competing in the 400m freestyle race
Sam Downie competing in the 400m freestyle race

Sam Downie, 16, from Edinburgh was diagnosed with Caudal Regression Syndrome when he was born, affecting his mobility from the waist down.

From a young age, Sam suffered with regular headaches, severe cramping and pressure sores.

Whilst Sam was incredibly keen to participate in contact sports, he was restricted to do so because of his condition.

This all changed when eight-year-old Sam was introduced to swimming as a long term non-contact sport he could take part in.

Sam joined the Musselburgh swim squad in 2014, and through sheer determination he quickly adapted to a different normality in the water, depending on his upper strength to manoeuvre in the pool.

After just one year of training, Sam’s coach noticed he was a ‘natural in the water’, and he started competing in competitions at the age of nine.

He said: “Swimming has allowed me to take control of my condition, and thrive towards a future I have always wanted, as well as inspire other people with a disability to show that it’s not something that restricts you, just a different way of life.”

Recently, in a matter of months Sam has qualified to team GB’s debut at World para-swimming Championships for 2022 as the youngest member in the squad, in addition to being selected for team Scotland’s Aquatics squad for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham 2022.

In response to Sam’s recent accolades, his coach Jamie Ward said: “We are hugely proud of what Sam has achieved this season.

"All of the hard work Sam puts in day-to-day has led him to this point.

"Sam has been a fantastic representative and role model for his team and will continue to be as his swimming career progresses.”

As well as being recognised by professional swim squads, Sam’s school community have also supported his resilience through nominating him for the Mark Holmes trophy for Dedication to Sport awards, through which he won at a sports dinner last week.

This came as a huge accomplishment, as throughout the course of the year he has had to learn how to juggle both studying for his National 5 exams, as well as training in the pool 17 and a half hours a week, before and after school.

Sam’s mum Gillian Downie said: “I have watched Sam go to compete abroad so much these last few months; he left as a boy and has returned as a young man.

"He is so determined, I have no doubt that he will achieve everything he aspires to do. I am so proud of him and all his hard work.”

Sam’s ambition continues to strive, as he now aims to win a gold medal at the World Paralympics in 2024 at age 18.

He said: “I am usually the youngest swimmer in the squad, but it has only matured me and allowed me to be even more determined. It has been tough, but I have had so much support from my family, school and friends that has been amazing.”

Since finishing his exams and qualifying, Sam said: “I am so happy with everything I have achieved so far, it still feels surreal, but I will continue to train consistently to achieve my goals, go to university and hopefully my dream of becoming a gold medal paralympian.”