Kirkby’s Paralympics swimming star Ollie Hynd has sent a message of support and solidarity to the people of Mexico after the World Para Swimming Championships were postponed due to Tuesday’s devastating earthquake.
Hynd was preparing to fly out this Friday morning to defend his two world titles.
But a 7.1 magnitude quake in Mexico City killed at least 248 people and caused major damage to buildings and infrastructure in the capital and neighbouring states, forcing the International Paralympic Committee to call the event off for now.
Hynd said on social media: “My heart breaks for the people of Mexico.
“Devastated to see the damage the earthquake has caused for so many people and how many lives have been effected by this awful tragedy.
“I am, of course, disappointed I will not be able to compete at the World Championships, but some things are bigger than sport and the well-being of the people of Mexico must be the priority.
“Please keep everyone who has been affected by this tragedy in your prayers today - stay strong Mexico.”
The 2017 Para Sport Festival, which included swimming and powerlifting, was scheduled for 30th September to 6th October.
Ollie’s mum, Helen, said: “Ollie was due to pack today and fly on Friday morning, so thank goodness he wasn’t out there.
“But I believe some teams may have been out there and my heart goes out to everyone over there.
“With it being at altitude, some teams will have gone out early to prepare for swimming at altitude and getting their bodies right.
“Ollie has been sleeping in an altitude tent at home for the last three weeks.
“I hear that some of the accommodation for the athletes has been affected and also the pool itself , though in a minor structural way. But it does send you head into a bit of a spin.”
Hynd was due to swim in five events and defend the World 200m medley and 400m freestyle titles he won in 2015.
“It is disappointing, but this is an enormous situation Mexico has on its hands and we feel for everyone concerned,” she added.
“You prepare yourself mentally for a World Championships and Ollie said he felt in good shape and thought he was going to swim well.
“But all that preparation is still in the bank for him and the most important thing is people’s well-being. We have no idea when the Championships will now happen and all we can do is wait and see.”
IPC president Andrew Parsons said of the organisation’s first ever postponement of a major championship: “The immediate focus of the Mexican authorities should be on prioritising recovery and rebuilding for the Mexican people and not organising two major international sport events.
“I know the postponement of both championships will be disappointing news to all the athletes who were set to take part, however these are unique circumstances and quite simply this is the right thing to do at the moment.”
Parsons said the IPC is working to ensure the safe departure of team delegations that had already arrived in Mexico for the championships, which will now be rescheduled, whether in Mexico City or, most likely if the event is to be held in the short term, elsewhere.
The Francisco Marquez Olympic Swimming Pool , where the IPC would have staged its event, sustained minor damage in the quake but a full structural assessment is both critical and low on the order of priorities, the rescue of those still trapped in rubble underway.
Parsons added: “Following the terrible earthquake our thoughts, prayers and condolences are with the people of Mexico at this time. The tragic loss of life and devastation caused is heart breaking to see and our deepest sympathies are with all those involved.”