A young team of Oxfordshire swimmers made a big impact on a trip of a lifetime to Australia, writes Alice O’Leary.

Four youngsters, from Abingdon Vale SC, returned home last week with a suitcase full of medals, after competing at the New South Wales Championships in Sydney. The talented boys were given the opportunity by their head coach and former coach Scott Farnell of Atlantis Swim Club in Australia, Scott Farnell. He said: “Since I emigrated to England and joined the club in 2010, I wanted to take a team home to compete. “I felt that if a swimmer was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go Down Under it would be a life-changing experience.”

During the competition all four swimmers gained their British Championship qualifying time for the event, which will be held in Leeds this March.

Alex Murphy, 17, from Upton, took gold in the 200m breaststroke (2mins 19.6secs) and is now ranked No 1 in Britain. He also got silver for the 100m breaststroke (1.03.6). Teammate Niall O’Leary won silver in the 200m backstroke (2.07.0), ranking him second in the country, and came seventh in the 100m backstroke (59.9). Further success came from Michael Ensouf, 16, from Combe, who took home bronze in the 100m breaststroke (1.07.1) and came fourth in the 200m breaststroke (2.28.8).

Harry James, 17, from Blewbury, qualified for both the 100m (1.06.5) and 200m (2.25.8) breaststroke final, but was unable to swim as the Canadian National team were also competing and there was only one position for visitors.

James was not disheartened though.

He said: “I gained the phychological boost needed to make me swim fast and train hard and the confidence of knowing that I can perform under pressure.

“I feel so privileged to have been able to travel and compete in what I love doing.”

As a team, the lads set an Oxfordshire & North Bucks county open record with 3.37.93 in the 4x100m freestyle relay.

They went on to smash another county record in the 4x100m medley (3.58.42), beating a mark that had stood for ten years.

Farnell added: “I know the boys will have taken a lot away from this experience.

“I can already see changes within the four of them”

The Vale swimmers spent a month over Christmas and New Year training with Atlantis SC.

The trip made a lasting impression on the swimmers. Murphy said: “It was great because we got to experience international training and competing, and learnt new tricks from the Aussie coaches.”

Vale chairman Diane Law said: “The club are very proud of their achievements and it is a great inspiration to our younger swimmers of what can be achieved through hard work and dedication.”