Swimmer Enzo Messence
Swimmer Enzo Messence

Local Albufeira swimmer breaks four national records in Italy

A 17-year-old swimmer representing Futebol Clube de Ferreiras (FCF), Enzo Messence, competing in his first international competition at the World Series Para Swimming Championships in Lignano, Italy, set four new Portuguese national records and qualified for two finals.

During the four days of events, Enzo competed in nine races in total.

Enzo was identified as a swimmer with great potential by Sónia Demétrio, FCF Director of Swimming, when he was part of his school’s participation in the ‘Learn to Swim’ programme at the Albufeira’s Municipal Swimming Pool, organised by the Special21 project (www.special21.org).

Under the direction of Sónia Demétrio and his coach Orlando Encarnação, Enzo has achieved so much in such a short space of time.

Enzo qualified to compete in the World Series Para Swimming Championships as a young boy with an intellectual impairment.

Special21 was established six years ago, with the focus initially of campaigning for the inclusion of elite Down Syndrome swimmers in the Paralympic Games. The project widened its brief with the launch of the ‘Learn to Swim’ programme, supporting adapted schoolchildren such as Enzo. Currently, there are five schools in the Albufeira area engaged in this programme.

Elite sports for athletes with intellectual impairment (II) is managed globally by Virtus and Special21 has been following their advice, which is to expand the existing International Paralympics’ Classification Code (IPCC) from the single II code to three:

– II1, single impairment, which would include all athletes who currently qualify

– II2, dual impairment, where Down Syndrome athletes could qualify

– II3, for athletes with Autism

Special21 and all its global supporters are awaiting the outcome of the current IPCC review, hoping that elite Down Syndrome and other intellectual impaired athletes will have the opportunity of competing in future Paralympic Games.