23 June 2017
A Sheffield swimmer is making waves in the run up to the Special Olympics Great Britain National Summer Games and training harder than ever in a bid to win more medals.
“When I’m in the water I feel free”. That’s the effect swimming has on 27-year-old Special Olympics athlete and wheelchair user, Megan Hattersley, of Wadsley Bridge.
Megan has moderate learning and physical disabilities, autistic tendencies, a rare genetic condition called tubular sclerosis and epilepsy.
But while dealing with these obstacles makes everyday life a challenge, she’s determined not to let it stop her going for gold at the Games – which are coming to Sheffield this August.
This will be the fourth time Megan, who trained with the GB squad before her illness became too severe, has entered the Games. She’s already won 10 medals, including four gold ones, and is now training harder than ever to win in her home city with friends and family cheering from the poolside.
Megan will be joined by 2,600 of her fellow athletes from all over the UK, who will be in Sheffield from 7 to 12 August to compete in the country’s largest multi-sports event for athletes with intellectual disabilities.
“I can feel trapped in my chair but when I’m in the water I feel free – like I can be whoever I want to be,” Megan explains.
“I think it’s better to try and fail than not to try at all so even if people say ‘you can’t do it’ I want to prove them wrong.
“There’s one thing you can’t take away from someone and that’s their passion. When you’re competing it’s your moment – and I can’t wait.”
The Special Olympics Great Britain National Summer Games take place every four years. Sheffield previously hosted it in 1993. This year, athletes are competing in 21 different sports – more than the last event, due to the range of sporting facilities in Sheffield.
Megan’s dad, Robert Hattersley, coaches Megan and is head coach of both the Yorkshire and Humberside Special Olympics swimming team and Sheffield Otters, a swimming club for people with a learning disability.
Robert said: “The beauty of the Special Olympics is that they’re graded in times so, no matter what people’s ability, they all have a chance of winning.
“The atmosphere at the Games is always brilliant and it’ll be even better at Ponds Forge. It’s a superb venue with one of the best pools in Europe in my opinion.”
Councillor Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure at Sheffield City Council, said: “We are incredibly proud to be hosting the Special Olympics in Sheffield this year, and can’t wait to be part of it.
“It’s thanks to Sheffield’s outstanding sporting facilities that more events are being hosted this year. I hope to see everyone at the opening ceremony at Bramall Lane and cheering the athletes on at the events, especially our local ones.”
Tickets to all sporting events are free and tickets for a spectacular opening ceremony at Bramall Lane on 8 August will soon be on sale.
There is also an Activity Festival at the English Institute of Sport on Wednesday 9 August to give people with a learning disability aged 11 years and over the chance to play a range of sports, including tennis, cricket, basketball, athletics, boccia and golf.
For more information, visit sheffield2017.org.uk. Show your support on social media using #Sheffield17 and #seeingisbelieving.