County swimmers Aidan Orpin and Max Morgan chart their England representation and medal-winning exploits at the ISF U15 Gymnasiade in Brazil in August
We are Aidan and Max and we have been a part of the Surrey swimming team at the National County Team Championships for the last two years.
In August, we had the opportunity to represent England at the International School Sport Federation’s second U15 Gymnasiade – in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
We were picked for the Games after wins for our divisions at the English Schools’ Swimming Association (ESSA) 72nd Inter-Divisional Championships in Coventry in March. Aidan swam for London and Max for the South East.
We felt proud to have been selected and it was very exciting to be able to join a squad of 23 other swimmers to travel out to Brazil and compete.
The whole Gymnasiade comprised of more than 15 sports, including athletics, swimming, table tennis, fencing, archery, orienteering and chess.
England had teams representing in both table tennis and swimming. There were also para-swimming events so our squad included seven para-swimmers.
Our journey to Brazil started on August 17 when we stayed at Heathrow airport. At the hotel we got our kit, complete with the England flag and sponsor logos. It was also a good opportunity to get to know our team-mates, the coaches and ESSA staff who made the trip possible.
We had an early start the next day to catch the first flight out to Rio. The flight, via Amsterdam, took over 12 hours and we arrived in Brazil on Friday evening. We had plenty of time to settle in to the hotel, shake off jet lag and adjust to the four-hour time difference.
Our hotel was at the Olympic Park in Rio, which hosted all 20 swimming teams that had travelled from around the world. These included Argentina, China, USA and the host team, Brazil.
The competition didn’t start until Monday so we had a couple of days to get used to the pool, the climate and the food. The competition took place at UNIFA, University of the Air Force as, sadly, the pool from the 2016 Olympics is no longer open.
The opening ceremony for the Games was on Sunday evening, which included a flag-bearing parade and music and dance performances from a variety of countries.
On Monday the competition began and we both felt great starting off the week.
Day 1 (Aug 21)
Max: 50m breaststroke – gold
Aidan: 4x100m freestyle relay – silver
Day 2 (Aug 22)
Max: 100m breaststroke – finalist
Aidan: 50m backstroke – gold; 200m butterfly – bronze
Both: 4x100m medley relay – gold
The most exciting race was the 4x100m medley relay in which we both swam: Max on breaststroke and Aidan on the butterfly leg. The Brazil team were very strong and the commentator was convinced that they had it in the bag. But when our team-mate Gabriel touched in 0.03sec ahead, there was stunned silence from the Brazilian-heavy spectator stands.
On Wednesday we enjoyed a day off, with a cultural day that included a trip to the beautiful Copacabana beach. In the evening we tried different foods and practices from all the competing countries.
Day 3 (Aug 24)
We were back at the pool for another day of competition: prelims in the morning and finals in the afternoon.
Max: 200m breaststroke – silver
Aidan: 50m butterfly – finalist
Day 4 (Aug 25)
Max: 4x100m mixed medley relay – gold
Aidan: 100m butterfly – finalist
The English swimming team had been extremely successful in the pool and we came out on top of the swimming medal table by the end of the competition.
The closing ceremony was on Saturday night, which included similar things as the opening ceremony.
We spent an extra day in Brazil and, although it was a bit rainy, we got to see a few more of the famous landmarks such as Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain.
We had the most amazing trip and it is definitely an experience we would recommend to others if you get the opportunity.
We both want to say a big thank you to Surrey County ASA for supporting us on our trip.
Aidan and Max