Harby swimmer Andy Banks on medal-winning form at European Championships

Down syndrome swimmer Andy Banks with his clutch of European medals EMN-151118-145539002

Down syndrome swimmer Andy Banks with his clutch of European medals EMN-151118-145539002

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Andy Banks produced two of the best swims of his life to claim an individual medal double at the European Down Syndrome Swimming Championships in Italy.

The Harby swimmer added a medal from each of his seven relay swims in an exhausting four-day schedule at the championships which attracted entries from more than 20 countries.

Competing in eight inidividual events, the long-distance specialist won bronze medals in the 400m and 1500m freestyle with two courageous comeback swims.

The 400m was swam as a final with the top three times from the heats taken as the medal winners.

Banks was down in fifth place after 14 lengths, but fought his way into the medals after a fantastic swim over the last two lengths.

But the best came in the 1500 freestyle, described by dad Keith as one of his son’s best-ever races.

Banks swam with great consistency with most of his 50m split times within half-a-second of each other, but after 40 lengths he was a length-and-a-half off the podium finish in fourth.

He did not panic but kept his pace, and overtook his tiring Spanish rival with eight lengths left, pulling away to finish comfortably in third and secure his second bronze medal.

He came narrowly close to a freestyle hat-trick in the 200m when he reached the final, but finished just outside the top three with a time close to his personal best.

Banks also reached the 100m individual medley and improved his ranking, again threatening his PB, but a second place finish in his 50m butterfly heat failed to get him through to the final of a fiercely competitive event.

He was also a key player in the British relay team, featuring in all six of the men’s relay events and a mixed relay.

Banks was entrusted to bring the team home in the final leg, and several times used personal best pace to reel in rivals and put Britain on the podium.

There were silver medals in the 4x25m and 4x100m freestyle and mixed 4x50m mixed freestyle, and bronzes in the 4x50m freestyle, and 4x25m, 4x50m and 4x100m medley relays.

Britain finished second overall in the medals table, beaten only by the hosts Italy.

Banks now turns his focus to qualifying times for next year’s Down Syndrome World Championships.