Since Friday, swimmers have been having fun, competing and reuniting at the Aquarena in St. John's. This year, the St. John's Legends Swim club invited the Canadian Down Syndrome Swimming Association to their Iceberg Invitational Long Course Meet, representing an opportunity for the CDSSA team to get together again before their next world championship competition in 2024.
"I'm having fun," said Tyler Robinson of St. John's, one of the CDSSA swimmers and a member of the St. John's Legends. He said it feels great to see his teammates again for the first time since last October when the championships were held in Portugal. "It is good, really, to let them in to St. John's and welcome them to St. John's and give them a tour."
Robinson's teammates are from all across Canada and he said they are bringing the team on bus tours and boat tours while they're here.
"We'll go around St. John's and eat fish and chips," he said.
Robinson has been swimming since he was 5 years old and is passionate about the sport.
"I like to swim because it is good for me and helps me move my body," Robinson said. "I'm getting faster every day."
As for the next world championship in Antalya, Turkey in March 2024, Robinson said he's planning on getting a medal.
CDSSA head coach Darcy Irwin said it was Robinson's idea to invite the Canadian team to his hometown.
"Tyler's been involved in the last three World Championship meets." Irwin said. "He's an incredible athlete. He brings a lot of sportsmanship to the team. He knows how to get the athletes going."
Irwin said the swim meet has been a big success for his team so far.
"All the swimmers have swam incredibly well," Irwin said. "We have set a few Americas' records. We're looking and waiting for results right now until finals to see if we've set any more, but we're really impressed with how our swimmers are swimming."
Irwin has been a swimming coach for over 20 years and first got involved with the CDSSA after he coached a woman who had Down syndrome.
Now, he's based out of British Columbia, and the distance between him and the other swimmers can sometimes prove challenging, both geographically and financially.
"We don't have a ton of funding to do this," Irwin said. "It's all parent sponsored and everybody's paying for themselves for the most part. We do have a few sponsors, but we're not receiving the same funding as Special Olympics or Para Swimming."
Despite the lack of funding, the team still gathers from all over the country, and the world.
"We have swimmers from across Canada," said Cynthia Lane, president of CDSSA. "We have swimmers in Calgary. We have swimmers from Ontario, New Brunswick, Quebec, Newfoundland. We actually have a swimmer from Italy. She lives in Italy, but she's a Canadian."
Though the team isn't often in the same place, Lane said the invitation to go to St. John's came at a great time.
"It's an opportunity for them to get together, to swim together, to have the camaraderie of the team again," said Lane. "Having this opportunity to come to Newfoundland and to swim together gives them that time to gel as a team and to meet new people and have the experiences of traveling as a team again."
As well, the opportunity to swim alongside other people at the Aquarena is an important factor.
"Look at the opportunities that we're providing people with Down syndrome for inclusion and being involved in their communities and swimming," Lane said.
For Robinson, it's just great to see his teammates again.
"Thank you to St. John's Legends, my swim club, to let them in here," Robinson said. "It is very nice to do that."