We started the Blue Badge Style Sports Blog to help advise less able people on how to get into sports. Each week we feature a different Paralympic athlete writing about their own sport.
This week Swimmer Ollie Hynd has written about his journey to the Paralympics. Ollie made his international debut in 2011 before winning a medal of each kind at the London games and then being appointed an MBE in the 2013 New Years Honours List. All of this and he is still only 18! Here’s his story in his own words:
Swimming has always played a big part in my life in many ways, and it feels like I have been in and around water all of my life! My swimming career began close to my home near Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, completing my badges before being selected for the county squad.
I arrived on the GB Paralympic swimming team just prior to the European Swimming Championships in Berlin in 2011. As a 16 year old who hadn’t long been on the squad it was all a bit surreal, and I still think I look very nervous stood on the blocks. That said, I adapted well, and came back with a gold, silver and a bronze medal from my first international meet – not a bad start you might say!
Fast forward a little over a year and I am making my Paralympic Games debut. Just to even make the games was a fantastic achievement having sustained a fracture in my wrist during the trials a few months earlier. Thankfully, I was able to take inspiration from my swimming hero, the awesome Michael Phelps, who had a similar injury on the way to his own Olympic podium performances.
I was determined to follow suit. Due to a combination of hard work, great coaching and the relentless support of a home crowd I was able to do exactly that. London was filled with my two best career moments. In the 400m Freestyle I was pipped to the gold, but had the fantastic experience of sharing the podium with my brother, who competed in the same race. Much was made of our so called ‘sibling rivalry’ in the run up to London, but it was great to be able to be there with him. Further, winning a gold in the 200m individual medley is something I will never forget. The waves of noise and emotion that enveloped the Aquatics Centre was amazing, and all at once a venue so vast was united and very intimate. Hearing that anthem is one of the things you train for, and to do it in front of a home crowd made every second spent training so worthwhile.
Ours is a very demanding sport in many ways, requiring great levels of stamina and fitness, an eye for technical detail, and a good tactical brain too. I relish the challenges that my sport poses on a day to day basis. I always like to push myself and have high standards in and out of the water. We cover a great distance in the pool each week, focusing on maintaining a good stroke technique, as well as strength and conditioning training, and physio out of the water. I am fortunate to come from a great club setup in Nova Centurion as well as having the support of the British Swimming staff, who are world class at what they do.
There are big things to come for us in the year ahead, with the World Championships in Canada this summer. After that there is the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow so I have a couple of things to aim at. I would encourage anyone to get involved in swimming for a great sense of health and fitness. It is also a very rewarding sport where you get the rewards in swimming faster for your efforts. The feeling you get when you are able to move through the water at pace is one certainly worth working for – for me, it beats any white knuckle ride hands down!
You can follow Ollie on Twitter @Olliehyndgb or visit his website at www.oliverhynd.co.uk