Barclay inspires Jamaican swimmers at World Games

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Leon Barclay, the Special Olympics Jamaica aquatics captain, has been leading from the front, inspiring his teammates after they all endured a bumpy start to the 2019 World Summer Games.

On Saturday at Hamdan Sports Complex in Dubai, Barclay, Nicholas McBean, Andrew Bartholomew and Rachael Charles all fell short of medal spots in their respective 50-metre freestyle races.

In Barclay's case, it was particularly hurtful missing out since he led for most of the first 25 metres before being surpassed by stronger finishers on the final lap in the pool.

On the same day at La Mer Beach, the team's other member Kadian Ingleton placed fourth in open water swimming.

Only 24 hours later Barclay made amends, courageously seizing bronze in the male 50m breaststroke with a time of of 41.77 seconds, when his preliminary clocking had suggested he might have been outmatched in a competitive Division Eight.

The skipper set the tone, and subsequent displays have also defied the odds. Charles won bronze in female 50m butterfly on Monday and Ingleton picked up silver in female 800m freestyle yesterday.

Jamaica's first gold in swimming at the 2019 Games — the ultimate icing on the cake — came in the form of Bartholomew's pulsating win in male 100m freestyle late yesterday.

“Leon, being the captain of the swim team, demonstrated true leadership in how hard he pushed himself, and Rachael's performance was an offshoot of that,” aquatics Head Coach Gabriel Heron told the Jamaica Observer moments after Charles' bronze-medal splash.

Always pushing himself to be the best, Barclay revealed there was a pang of regret he did not win. But even then he recognised that placing third behind Japan's Taiga Teshima (40.23) and Egypt's Ayman Sabour (40.87) was no small feat.

“It [winning a medal] did lift my spirit even though I did feel a way [disappointed] when I realised I came in third. I am extremely thankful for the bronze because all of my races have been tight, they are so hard. I give myself a thumbs up for that,” he said.

“My coaches have supported me so much, and they lift my spirit,” he said in reference to Heron and Assistant Coach Alecia Newman.

The quest for medals and glory, and even more importantly the drive to inspire the small island of Jamaica, will continue for Barclay and company.

On today's final day of competition, Charles, Ingleton, Bartholomew and Barclay are slated to combine for the 4x50m relay.

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