Town swimmer scoops Olympic gold

Special Olympic swimmer Richard Monk with his gold medal.
Special Olympic swimmer Richard Monk with his gold medal.

A SWIMMER who suffers with Down’s Syndrome has won a gold medal in the Special Olympics.

Richard Monk, from Hartlepool, took part in the competition against other swimmers with learning disabilities at the Hengrove Sports Centre, in Bristol.

Special Olympic swimmer Richard Monk with his gold medal.

Special Olympic swimmer Richard Monk with his gold medal.

The 32-year-old, from Berkeley Avenue, was the only athlete from Hartlepool to take part and competed in four races, scooping first place in the 25m freestyle race against seven others.

Today his proud mum Margaret Monk told the Mail how proud she and the whole family were of their superstar.

She said: “I was over the moon, absolutely ecstatic.

“His winning race was his second race meaning he had two more to go but I thought, ‘I don’t care what happens now he’s got a gold’.

“I couldn’t believe it. It’s such a big achievement for him to win the gold medal at an event like this.”

She added: “Richard was absolutely delighted as well. He cheered and cheered when he was told, it made him very, very happy and it was lovely to see.”

The high-profile contest last week was the fourth time Richard has been involved in the Special Olympics – which sees athletes with learning disabilities from all over the UK competing against each other – after taking part in the event in 2001, 2005, and 2009.

But this year was the first time he has ever won gold, after previously returning home with silver and bronze medals for his Olympic swimming efforts.

It all started when his mum made inquiries for him to be entered into the Special Olympics and he gained a place on the northern team in 2001.

The former Ward Jackson Primary School - who also attended Catcote School, in Catcote Road, Hartlepool, and then Riverside College in Stockton – competes in other regional galas in between the Olympics after getting the bug for swimming when he was just two-years-old.

Margaret, a former administrator at the now-demolished Brierton Comprehensive School, said he has recently been training at Barnard Castle and his efforts had obviously paid off when he competed last Thursday.

The 66-year-old who is married to Chris Monk, 61, and is also mum to Richard’s brother Jonathan Monk, 31, said: “I went to watch him with a very close friend and it was a very proud moment which we will remember for a long time.”

The Special Olympics follows the Paralympics and the Olympics.