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Blog: “It’s always good to challenge yourself”

Activity Alliance enables organisations to support disabled people to be active, and stay active for life. This year, we are continuing to share great stories from both sides – how organisations are working to make active lives possible, and the direct impact their work is having on individual disabled people. Today’s blog comes from one of our National Junior Para-Swimming competitors, McKenzie. He tells us what he is hoping to achieve at the Championships next month in Sunderland.

McKenzie with para-swimmer Steph Millward MBE on the left and his friend Jacob on the right.

McKenzie smiling to camera Hi I’m McKenzie and I’m 10 years old. I have spina bifida and hydrocephalus. I love swimming, I started lessons when I was 3 years old. My mum and dad encouraged me and took me to lessons because they wanted me to feel confident in the water.

I train with Gloucester City Swimming Club twice a week. I really enjoy taking part in the competitions.

The support I get from my friends at the club is great. Swimming means a lot to me as I have made lots of friends through it. It also keeps me fit.

What I enjoy most about being active is the fun I get out of it. When I’m taking part in swimming, I’m excited but I also struggle with pain and my legs get tired. After training or a competition I feel proud that I have completed what my coach had planned for me. Or if I have got a personal best.

The support from my family and friends are one of the most important parts. Especially my parents as they take me to all my activities and competitions. I also get really excited that my family are cheering me on in competitions. The cheering from my friends at my swimming club encourages me to go faster too. It makes me smile that they are supporting me and waving to me at the end of my races.

I’m really looking forward to competing at the National Junior Swimming Championships in Sunderland next month. I like spending time with my friend Jacob, who is also a swimmer. I also like seeing others swim and cheering Jacob on during his events. (Photo above shows McKenzie and Jacob with Paralympic swimmer Steph Millward.)

I feel my training has gone pretty good for this event. I train with both disabled and non-disabled swimmers. My goal for the Championships is to get some personal bests, particularly in backstroke as I haven’t had a personal best in this for a long time.

Overall, in my swimming career I’d like to achieve some international times and hopefully compete for Team GB at the Paralympics.

My advice to other disabled people who are thinking about taking up exercise or sport is – just to try an activity. If you like it, carry on. If don’t like it, don’t give up just try a different activity.

There are so many things to try. I play wheelchair rugby, wheelchair tennis and go horse riding every week, as well as my swimming. This year I am going to have a go at adapted surfing, dry slope skiing and rock climbing.

I get scared about trying new things, but afterwards I always feel so happy I have done it. It’s always good to challenge yourself.

Organised by Activity Alliance and supported by Swim England, the National Junior Para-Swimming Championships take place on 14-15 March 2020 at Sunderland Aquatics Centre.
Follow Activity Alliance on Twitter @AllForActivity and join in the conversation using the hashtag #JuniorParaSwim20.