I am involved in tandem cycling at the Avantidrome in Cambridge. As well as cycling, I do powerlifting twice a week, I have a personal trainer and I go to in Riding for the Disabled (therapeutic horse riding and horse-related activities) fortnightly. In the past, I have completed two women’s triathlons with my Mum. I have also participated in swimming for many years with the Special Olympics, and I have done synchronised swimming. The sports I participate in are a mix of both mainstream and those that come under the Special Olympics.
As well as Down Syndrome, I have a visual impairment. This makes cycling difficult, but it doesn’t stop me doing what I love. Because of my visual impairment, I either ride a trike during triathlons or at school, or I ride a tandem when I cycle at the velodrome or on the road. My visual impairment can sometimes prove difficult when I want to cycle competitively – I am not quite blind enough for para sports, but I have some limitations when competing in mainstream cycling situations, which means being able to participate can be difficult. But with the help of my family I do my best to find ways around this…
If I want to compete in mainstream cycling, we work out a way for me to compete on a tandem. This means that I get to ride with a pilot who gives me visual cues and controls the bike. Groups like the Te Awamutu Club and previously my local high school have built categories into their events specially to allow me to compete. Most of the other sports I participate in are under the disability umbrella already so there are less barriers for me to participate, but it’s still nice to be able to compete in mainstream races and events too.
I receive a lot of support, which helps me to do the activities I love to do. With cycling, synchronised swimming and powerlifting we have asked for help from the community and people have volunteered to work with and alongside me. For example, people in the paracycling community have loaned tandem bikes (road and track) to allow me to take part. I have an ex-Olympic cyclist as my special pilot and my high school pilot continues to ride on the road with me. Without these supporters, I wouldn’t be able to be as involved as I am. Others have also put up their hands up to coach voluntarily.
My main reasons for wanting to take part in the sports that I am involved in are to keep healthy, and I know that being physically active is a big part of that, and I enjoy the social side I experience from being involved in these activities. Physical activity makes me happy. I like doing sport with other people because it is fun. I like to interact with others through sport, both inside and outside of the disability world. I also participate so that I can encourage those in the mainstream sporting world to recognise that there are ways disabled people can be part of the sporting community, in both disability and mainstream sport.
My future physical activity plans include continuing to ride and be part of my cycling club. I have just started powerlifting, so I would like to continue with this activity and I want to succeed in this sport. The exciting thing about sports and physical activity is the ability to try lots of things, and this is what I plan to continue to do.
I believe that if there is something standing in the way of you doing what you would like to do, then speak up and talk to organisers or other participants. Usually someone will know someone else that can help you get involved. There is always an option or a way to overcome obstacles.
"Going to the gym and being physically active makes me feel alive and motivated"
"The rush you get from being active, and achieving your physical goals, is unmeasurable"
Catarina"I love the feeling when you're all sweaty, tired and out of breath because you know you've tried your best and pushed yourself as far as you could"Read Story
Courtney"I like getting fit, competing and winning medals. I like to have big strong muscles"Read Story
"So often as a mum you are doing things for other people, so being physically active makes me feel good in that I’m doing something positive for myself"
"I enjoy the social aspect of being physically active, when it’s not too serious and it’s just about learning new skills or getting out of the house and having fun"
“I don't like sitting around and being bored. I love participating in team sport and putting goals in place to achieve.”
“Never give up, keep pushing even when times are hard, and love yourself. Find your passion and grow because your only competition is yourself”
“Being active is important to me. I want to live a healthy life and movement is a big part of that”
"For me, sport and physical activity has offered me opportunities to make friends for life and memories I will never forget"
"I’m now convinced that I am not in competition with anyone and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks anyway. I know I’m never going to win races but as long as I am trying my best to be a better me than I was yesterday then I am winning at life"
"Not being the one sitting on the sidelines watching and being able to role model how to stay healthy and fit to my children so that they grow up believing being active is a part of everyday life and sharing all these wonderful adventures with them, it makes my heart sing"
“Quite often when you can’t be bothered or you’re feeling sluggish and tired you can surprise yourself on how well you’ll do. Just get out the door, breathe in some fresh air and take some time for YOU, because you deserve to be HAPPY and HEALTHY!”
“Start out with small steps and milestones like walking around the block without stopping, going to that first group fitness class or jumping in the water for the first time in 10 years or so”
“I feel a lot happier when I'm active. A run or a swim will always clear my head”
“You have got to have a positive attitude and just get out there. Keep moving, stay focused, because life is way too short to waste your time not doing what you love to do. Just do it”
“By valuing ME more, I started to recognise myself and all of my qualities. Now I’m proud of who I am”
“I find I am generally a better human being and can give more when I keep active”
“Being active amazes me at what my body can achieve, after all I have put it through. It amazes me how it can heal”
"Find something that you enjoy doing and make the time to do it. You’re not being selfish; you’re looking after yourself. The best time to start is today"
“Running and working out are my antidote to the everyday stresses of life. When I’m not active I find it harder to switch off and view things in perspective. Sweating through activity means I don’t sweat the small things in life”
“Being active makes me feel like I’m using my body for good. It makes me feel powerful, positive, sweaty, glorious, achy in a good way, and hopeful for the future”
“Running is an outlet for me and I feel as though I am in control when it’s just me and my running shoes”
“I was proud that I was determined enough to start from scratch and have had lots of fun playing in local competitions”
"I didn’t want to be the parent that only ever watched my kids run around and kick a ball – I wanted to be a part of what they were doing."