I remember taking part in these when I was younger, they were the first big organised events I competed in & gave me experience racing in an environment where I felt comfortable & the same as everyone else.
It didn't matter if I didn't know how many lengths, what stroke or which lane to be in because nor did many of the other competitors & the officials & team managers at these meets knew that we all had the same kinds of problems so helped us all a lot. It gave me the confidence to want to do more gala's & I attended Mencap's swimming events for several year's as I progressed.
Now many years later & I am one of Mencap's ambassador so I know more than anybody that any one of the swimmers from Saturday's or Sunday's event can be our next Great British Paralympic Champion & I know how important it is to enjoy swimming. Me & my mum came up with an extra idea for this year 10th year's celebrations to make it extra fun for everyone & decided that if anyone wanted to race me.........meaning coaches, parents, team managers or officials they could put a small donation in a pot & their name in a hat. Then after lunch names would be drawn from a hat & I would race 2 x 50m freestyle events & my team mate Jack Thomas who also came along to support the event would also swim 2 x 50m freestyle's.
I presented medals & had lots of photographs done with the event sponsors from Westfield Health, it was also his birthday too! I chatted with the swimmers & their families about the events I have done & how anything is possible as long as you are prepared to work hard. I put in hours & hours of training a week in the gym & in the pool but I love swimming & have a great relationship with my coach, these things are very important if you want to progress.
Event's that Mencap & Special Olympic's GB provide like the swimming & athletic championships are so important as they provide the starting blocks for many children to begin their journey's just like me.
Being involved in sport is really important to me, it has not only given me something in my life that I am good at but in return for my hard training I am fit, healthy, it's has given me confidence around the pool & has been an out let for my excess energy which is one of the main reasons my mum got me into swimming many years ago.
I am never happier than when I am poolside (or cuddling my dogs haha!).
If you'd like to learn more about Mencap please take a look at their website https://www.mencap.org.uk/