Northern Ireland

Co Down Paralympic swimmer pays tribute to the competition that started his career

Paralympic Swimmer Barry McClements
Paralympic Swimmer Barry McClements

The winner of Northern Ireland’s first Commonwealth Games swimming medal has been giving his support to younger athletes hoping to emulate his success in the pool.

Barry McClements (21) made a return to the competition that kicked started his sporting success a decade ago.

The Ards para-swimmer won a bronze medal in the S9 100m backstroke event in Birmingham last year.

On Saturday, he returned to the Disability Sport NI Swim Ulster competition, which he says set him on the road to Commonwealth Games glory.

“I went to the event to give encouragement to other swimmers,” he said.

“That was my first competition. If I hadn’t done that, I probably wouldn’t have gone to the swimming club or started racing at other competitions.”

Mr McClements had his right leg amputated above the knee when he was 10 months old due to a rare birth defect called fibular hemimelia.

He said he was drawn to swimming as it was “a great leveller.”

“With my leg, I can run but I can’t keep up with somebody with two legs. But with swimming, if you have a better technique than somebody, or you’re stronger, then you’re going to be able to keep up, no matter what,” he said.

Paralympic Swimmer Barry McClements
Paralympic Swimmer Barry McClements

The Disability Sport NI Swim Ulster competition was the first time Mr McClements took to the water competitively.

 “I was 11 years old, won silvers and bronzes, caught the competition bug and joined the local swimming club.”

Disability Sport NI’s Aubrey Bingham thanked Mr McClements for his support.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive and Finance Director at Progressive Building Society, Michael Boyd, said he was delighted to partner with Disability Sport NI and praised the organisation for its excellent work.