Roll on Beijing

Karen Gold

Two of Britain's first medallists of the 2004 Paralympic Games were won by school-age swimmers: Anthony Stephens (right), 18, from Somerset, who is disabled in three limbs and swims with two artificial legs, won bronze in the men's 100m freestyle. And Rhiannon Henry, 17, a visually impaired swimmer from Swansea, also won bronze in the women's 100m butterfly.

Britain's 166-strong team in Athens included 10 under-19s. Two were in the athletics team: Claire Williams, 17, a discus thrower from Carmarthen, who has albinism and only 5 per cent sight, and Steven Leigh, 17, a runner in the 800m. Sixteen-year-old Sophie Christiansen, from Ascot, who has cerebral palsy, competed in the equestrian section, and there were seven swimmers.

As well as Stephens and Henry, these were Claire Cashmore, 16, from Kidderminster, Gareth Duke, 18, from Torfaen, already a medallist in the 2002 world championships, Callum Lawson, 18, from Mansfield, Robert Welborn, 17, from Lincoln, a European record holder in the 200m freestyle, and David Hill, 15, the youngest member of the squad. A last-minute addition to the team, he missed the qualifying time in the main April trials this year but made it on a second attempt in May. He had not expected to go to Athens: "I had my sights set on Beijing in 2008."

Having been picked, David found himself in a flurry not only of training - he swims for eight two-hour sessions a week, with extra sessions in the gym - but also of English and design technology GCSE coursework which he had to finish over the summer holidays in order not to miss deadlines when he returns to Year 11 at Kelly College in Devon, a private school specialising in sport.

David's serious swimming training began at the age of 10. His disability - he was born with a shortened left arm, ending just below the elbow - means he has to compensate with extra powerful kicking technique on his right side, and constantly adjust his balance. In Athens, he swam in the 100m backstroke and 200m relay.

Altogether, Britain's school-age paralympians won 13 medals: Anthony Stephens one silver and three bronze from individual and team swimming events; Rhiannon Henry two bronze; Claire Cashmore two bronze; Robert Welbourn one gold, one silver; Gareth Duke one gold, one bronze; and Sophie Christiansen winning bronze in her individual dressage competition.

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Karen Gold

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