Saturday saw Sutton & Cheam Swimming Club host the UK’s first pan disability water polo festival at Cheam Leisure Centre, writes Beverley Rees.

The event, which was possibly a ‘world first’, resulted from a joint initiative between Sutton & Cheam’s Chief Water Polo coach Dave Andrews who has recently introduced Sutton’s Disability Swim Squad to the sport of water polo; Mick Betteridge, coach to Sutton’s Disability squad drawn mainly from Members of Cheam Marcuda Swimming Club, and Chelmsford’s Dean Walker who set up the Dolphins Disability Water Polo Club, comprising members of Chelmsford and Runnymede Swimming Clubs, after a work accident cut short his international water polo career.

Twenty-four athletes with a range of disabilities including Autistic Spectrum, Asperger Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Down’s syndrome, hearing impairment, learning and physical disabilities first took part in a joint training session run by Dave Andrews. The players were then able to put what they had learned into practice in what we believe to be the first ever water polo match in the world played between two teams of disabled players! Both the pre-match training and the match itself were undertaken with the assistance of able-bodied players and we are grateful to Eve and Jacob Tidy (S&C SC) and to the coaches of the Dolphins Water Polo Club for their help.

Although players had differing impairments, the match was played in a fantastic cooperative spirit, which allowed every player to take part and contribute and was watched by an appreciative and enthusiastic crowd of spectators, who applauded every aspect of the game. The result was a very narrow 11-10 win to the ‘Blues’ The match was followed by the presentation of medals to all the players by Fred Andrews (S&C President) and Ron Moore (Sutton Sports Council Member and Hon Life President of S&C).

Sutton & Cheam Swimming Club is grateful for the help of the London Borough of Sutton who kindly sponsored the hire of the pool; and to the Sutton Sports Council, who sponsored the provision of medals for all the participants, as well as a post match reception and buffet for the players and spectators.

The event turned out to be a spectacular success and concluded with the promise of a return fixture later in the year and the promise by S&C SC to continue delivering their coaching to the LBS team.