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.
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