Why We Do What We Do Holly Sullivan

Holly is a Down Syndrome swimmer who started learning to swim lessons at Swindon Oasis age 4. During the very first lesson, it was obvious that due to Holly’s physical and cognitive development she could not access the programme and at the end of the lesson, the teacher came to speak with us………..  To our surprise, instead of pointing out the obvious, that Holly could not continue in the group, they suggested a move to the parent toddler group, where we would be with younger children but mum and dad could get in the water with her. Looking back, this was the biggest moment in Holly’s journey to representing her country.

Over many years and with the help of several different instructors Holly made progress and moved through the learn to swim levels until she successfully finished stage 9.  At this point, we progressed to a local swimming club, Swindon ASC, who was able to give Holly an opportunity to continue to swim. She made the move into a competitive Swimming environment and is now swimming 4 times a week with 2 clubs at various GLL sites (Swindon ASC & Reading Cygnets).

At this time we did not know there was a pathway for Down syndrome swimmers to progress to their full potential and after a year or so in a main stream swimming club we joined Reading Cygnets, a swimming club, especially for people with learning disabilities where we gained access to some disability competitions.

At the age of 13 (March 2017) Holly beat an established member of the Down Syndrome GB team at a major competition held annually in Southampton.  This led to her being invited to train with the GB team and within 1 year (November 2017) still aged 13, she was part of the team travelling to Paris to take part in a European competition.

Holly was selected for 3 relay teams where she achieved a gold medal & two silver medals.   In short, Holly at 13 Holly was experienced enough and fast enough to make the GB relay team in an adult competition as well as make a final in 100m backstroke and become the top junior in 400m freestyle.

She is now training with the Down Syndrome GB team at quarterly training camps alongside her normal club swimming and has achieved qualification times for the World Championships in Canada in July 2018.

Holly’s journey from a learn-to-swim programme through to international competition is a sporting love story which has played out in GLL facilities in Swindon for the last 10 years. 

In addition to the above and In recognition of her swimming achievements Holly has been awarded the female Swimmer of the year by Wiltshire ASA which is an award voted on by representatives from all of the swimming clubs in Wiltshire.  A truly magnificent honour.

2017 European Championships – gold medallist