A PARALYMPIAN swimmer from Bournemouth dived into the midst of the action while visiting a support group for families with a child with Down’s Syndrome.
Despite being born with the genetic condition and a hole in her heart, Judith Cooling from Queens Park developed into a world class swimmer and now devotes her spare time to improving the lives of children with special needs.
On Thursday the swimming sensation, who coaches at her old school Linwood and also runs with the Bournemouth Special Olympic Athletic Club, met with youngsters and their families at a Downs in Dorset meeting at the Somerford Children’s Centre in Christchurch.
Jo Phillpot, whose daughter Georgia has Down’s Syndrome, founded the group after being told there were no parent support groups in the county with a child with the condition.
Jo said: “It was lovely.
“Judith was such an inspiration to all who met her and she enjoyed having cuddles with the little ones, threatening to take them all home with her.”
The visit was arranged after Judith and her mother Maureen saw an article about Downs in Dorset on the front page of the Christchurch Adver-tiser and contacted Jo saying they would like to meet the group.
Jumping at the opportunity, Jo said both the children and parents were delighted to meet the international star and hear about her achievements.
Judith, who competed for Great Britain’s Down’s Syndrome team, was selected to carry the Paralympic Flame through the streets of Harrow, London, ahead of the 2012 Paralympic Games.
During her visit to the Somerford Centre the Paralympian, donning her team GB tracksuit, showed the youngsters a collection of her medals and passed around her treasured replica of the Paralympic torch.
Jo said: “We were all in awe of her certificates, awards and medals and we hope to have her back again in the future.”
To find out more about Downs in Dorset look on Facebook or call Jo on 07772 732842.