I am delighted to have been appointed the Inclusive Futures National Athlete Role Model. It is a programme that represents what is truly great about sport - that anyone and everyone can take part in some way.
My own disability happened when I was two years old when I lost a hand in a freak accident. However it didn’t stop me from playing with my school friends and learning to catch, climb and skip like any other child. Being treated the same as everyone else was a huge help in finding my potential as a swimmer.
At first, swimming wasn’t a sport I enjoyed as much as others and it took me a long time to learn how to do it (five years in fact!). Undeterred, I finally discovered my talent after competing in a disability sports day where I won my first medal. It’s safe to say that after a 10-year career I haven’t looked back since!
Despite my disability, I was encouraged to try any and every sport I was interested in, and luckily I had a huge appetite for getting active. Nothing got in my way of my have-a-go attitude and I believe that should be the way for every young person, whether they want to find a sport for them or prefer to sit on the sidelines.
It’s important to remember that volunteers are just as important as the people who take part in sport. They’re the leaders and the enablers of everyone involved, and their passion is just as great as the athletes who are trying their best.
The Inclusive Futures programme is special because it aims to include young people with and without disabilities in the same activities, and teaches them how to lead others in volunteering too. Though the programme, young people have transformed into skilled volunteers and will be able to transform their local communities into areas that promote inclusive sport for all.
It’s an exciting time for disability sport and I am looking forward to working with the Inclusive Futures Coordinators in each of the eight UK cities to raise the profile of sports volunteering for young disabled people.