BY JAMES TWOMEY
Footballers took part in an annual swimming race against a Down’s syndrome football team to promote a charity walk taking place in April.
Four Charlton Athletic first-team players took on four Charlton Upbeats in a swimming race on March 5 to see who would be this year’s winners.
The Upbeats programme is for adults and children with Down’s syndrome and is funded by voluntary contributions.
First-teamers Chris Solly, Jake Forster-Caskey, Dillon Phillips and Josh Cullen took on Billy Birchmore, Jack Lyons, Joe Peciuch and James Bowers as the Upbeats looked to retain their title from last year.
This year, the players – managed by Lee Bowyer – edged the Upbeats in a competitive race, which attracted a crowd at David Lloyd Sidcup.
The Upbeats – managed by Charlton team captain Jason Pearce – narrowly fell short of defending the trophy they had won last year.
After the race, however, Billy took on Phillips in a one-to-one race and beat the Charlton goalkeeper with ease over two lengths.
Billy holds 11 world Down’s syndrome swimming records and 15 European records.
The race took place to raise awareness about the upcoming Upbeats Walk on April 13.
The nine-mile walk will start off at the club’s Sparrows Lane training ground in New Eltham and finish at The Valley in time for Charlton’s game against Luton Town.
The Upbeats will play Derby County’s Down’s syndrome team and Sutton United’s pan-disability team on the pitch at The Valley from 1.30pm.
Charlton Athletic legend Robert Lee has said he will be joining the walk this year.
Robert said: “I think it’s a great cause and fantastic that football clubs are getting involved with the community in helping to provide opportunities for young people with disabilities.
“When Keith Peacock contacted me to ask if I would be interested in doing the Upbeats Walk, I was more than happy to be involved.”
More than 170 people took part in last year’s walk to support the Upbeats. Walkers will get tea, coffee and pastries at the start and hot food at the finish.
Carl Krauhaus, Charlton Athletic Community Trust’s head of early help and prevention, said: “It’s great news that Robert Lee has agreed to join the Upbeats Walk this year – another true Charlton legend who is clearly invested in the Upbeats and the community programmes we run.
“His support is much appreciated, and I’m sure the supporters that attend the walk each year will be looking forward to walking the nine-mile route with Robert.”
Donations can be made via JustGiving: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/upbeatswalk