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The start of something extraordinary

Junior Festival 2020 integrated 6 young swimmers with impairments this year

Swimming New Zealand continues the push to be a fully inclusive organisation by integrating young swimmers with impairments at the 2020 Junior Festival back in March this year.

Para swimmers 12-years-old and below had the opportunity to swim alongside their able-bodied clubmates for the first time at the festival – receiving personal best stickers to celebrate their new best times.

National Para Swimming Development Coordinator and Paralympic swimmer Cameron Leslie said that it’s a positive step for the future.

“We have made such good progress as an organisation in terms of building capacity and capability to have Para swimmers included fully."

“Junior Festival is such a positive event for those involved. Celebrating personal best times is exactly what swimmers of this age should be doing in my opinion, which makes it a perfect fit for our young Para swimmers who are often not the fastest in their squads due to their impairment.”

Leslie added that Junior Festival will be the start of a long and positive time in the sport.



“The idea is clubs have now seen these swimmers have a place in the competition pathway alongside their clubmates. The challenge is now on both clubs and the Para swimmers to continue to compete at local and regional competitions to improve on their personal best times.”


Head of participation Andy Kent felt that the full integration of Para swimmers at the meet was worthwhile, and a step in the right direction.

“A number of these Para swimmers train and race with clubs already, so it just makes sense to have them included at the event in the right way.

We want to be a fully inclusive sporting organisation where our Para swimmers have the same opportunities as everyone else to compete and grow as one.

We have made countless changes behind the scenes and now, we are able to showcase these changes at events like Junior Festival.”

Kent said this addition to the Para swimmer pathway is just one of a raft of changes which have happened over the past 18 months as Swimming New Zealand seeks to have a fully integrated pathway for all swimmers.

SNZ has always been willing to cater to swimmers with impairments, however, this latest opportunity is formalising what has previously been done on an as-needs basis.

In total there were 6 Para swimmers who were involved in the event, representing an increase of just under 10% of SNZ.

The 2020 Junior Festival was held in March at four locations simultaneously across the country in Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington and Timaru.