TeamGY can help our young Paralympian hopefuls

SPORTING fever gripped the nation this summer as the London 2012 Games played out and Team GB’s phenomenal success has showed signs of galvanising the population into becoming more active.

And the Olympic and Paralympic legacy was brought further home to Great Yarmouth after home grown swimming champ Jessica Jane Applegate scooped gold in the aquatics centre.

But before the spirit of London 2012 swept the nation - and even before the capital won the bid to host the games - a group of volunteers have been spreading an important sporting message amongst youngsters and working to nurture up and coming athletes.

The Great Yarmouth and Waveney Special Olympians has been running from a tucked away corner of Bradwell for more than 25 years, training and teaching youngsters with disabilities and learning difficulties how to swim.

Based in the Phoenix Pool, the group holds three sessions a week for its 50 plus members, who range in age from babies and up, and regularly compete in local and national competitions - often taking podium positions.

For many years it has already been extolling the virtues of what TeamGY stands for but is always on the look out for new members, coaches, teachers and sponsors as it works to expand its remit.

Chairman Clare Winter is keen to increase the group’s sessions to four times a week and would like to be able to train members in a bigger 50m pool, and start holding adult master classes.

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She said: “It’s a privilege to be with these people, they make your weekends really. However tired and knackered you feel they don’t make a fuss, they aren’t spoilt and they’re always raring to go.

“There’s no difference, whatever age they are equal and they came up with the (group) motto ‘achieving through disability’.”

As well as helping with their health the group also boosts members’ confidence and life skills, as not all its activities are pool based and it runs regular social outings for athletes and their families.

Dr Winter said one of the group’s biggest achievements was helping to successfully train former member John Wilkins, 20, who has severe autism, as a coach, and he now joins other volunteers in nurturing the next generation of Paralympic champions.

The group is particularly unique as it also provides training to members’ siblings and through its weekly meetings it provides support for parents.

“A lot of the time parents can help each other. Some may ask for some advice and there’s always someone in this club that will know the answer,” Dr Winter added.

Coach Michelle Roderick, 37, is mum to Liam, 14, William, nine, and Ethan, six, who all swim with the group.

She added: “It’s more than just swimming. We have a fantastic social side and it’s really family orientated.

“We have members from Yarmouth, Gorleston, Beccles and Lowestoft - it brings people together and it’s a really important aspect of the community.”

To find out more about the club, how you can get involved or how you can help boost it even further as part of our Team GY campaign, you can visit www.greatyarmouthspecialolympians.cfsites.org, or email specialolympians@ntlworld.com or call Heather Sayer on 01493 302975.