'The sky's the limit' - Down Syndrome not a barrier to sporting success says Winchester teen swimmer

  • Caitlin Hatfield spoke to ITV News Meridian's Rachel Hepworth about her recent success.

A 19-year-old swimming star from Hampshire has returned from the European Down Syndrome Swimming championships - with a clutch of medals and personal bests.

Caitlin Hatfield is part of the Penguins Swimming Club in Winchester and wants to encourage more people with Down Syndrome to get involved in sports.

She has been swimming since she was four, training up to six times a week and for two hours at a time.

Success in the pool comes from dedication, hard graft and self-belief and it is clear Caitlin Hatfield has all three. Credit: ITV News Meridian.

At the Down Syndrome European Championships in Genoa, Italy, she made five finals, coming third in two of them and smashing her personal best times.

Caitlin Hatfield said: "I'm really happy. I've worked really hard, my family's proud and my coaches are proud."

"I love swimming and being in the water. The training is hard, but I enjoy it.

"My favourite stroke is the butterfly because I want to be like Michael Phelps. He's a great swimmer, incredible."

Caitlin is pretty incredible too, a true water baby. She has been swimming since she was four. Credit: ITV News Meridian

She plays tennis and rugby too but has always loved swimming.

Caitlin has been training and competing with her teammates, while being supported by her coaches.

Head coach of Winchester City Penguins, Ben Reid said: "Oh she's unbelievable. We're really proud of her as a club. She's a real character around the club and all the coaches love working with her.

"You always know when she's in because she always makes herself known for sure."

Caitlin, from Otterbourne in Hampshire, joined Down Syndrome Swimming GB in 2018.

It is a volunteer-led charity enabling children and adults to reach their potential as elite swimmers and giving them opportunities to swim at the international level.

Liz Hatfield has always been a huge supporter of her daughter's swimming. Credit: ITV News Meridian

The support has meant Caitlin has gone from strength to strength, culminating in her recent clutch of European medals.

Her mum, Liz Hatfield said: "She's really stepped up her training in the last few months and that's really reaped the rewards for her."

"She's just so chuffed with herself which is really lovely to see."

Liz Hatfield said: 'When Caitlin was born we had no idea that all these opportunities might exist down the line.' Credit: ITV News Meridian

Caitlin's mum added: "It shows just what you can do with what's essentially a severe learning disability.

"So just get involved - there's so many clubs that are inclusive for all sorts of sporting activities.

"Go along and ask. The sky's the limit and it's great for their self-confidence too."

Caitlin is now training hard for the British Down Syndrome Swimming Championships in Crawley in November, and the World Championships in Turkey in March 2024.

She said she would also love to be a swimming teacher one day.

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