Able2Do Anything: Sports

Disabled teen sets her sights on prestigious swimming tournament

Sophie York with Ellie Simmonds

A teenager with dwarfism has set her sights on becoming a role model for young people wanting to take up swimming.

Sophie York is heading to Coventry this weekend where she will compete in the Junior Para-swimming Championship after she has returned home from taking part in the Dwarf Sports Association National Games.

The 14-year-old from Paulton says she wants to inspire disabled young people to pursue their favourite sports.

York was glued to the London Paralympics in 2012 watching her hero, gold medallist Ellie Simmonds.

She told BBC News: "She's been the role model for me to do it, and so I've always thought that I can do it.

"A lot of people can do swimming and it's also really fun.

"You can just be yourself in the water."

The teen signed up to Norton Radstock swimming club at the tender age of seven, since then she has breast stroked her way to become a member of Team Bath.

Her mum, Sinead York, started to take Sophie to swimming lessons when she was young, hoping that her daughter would excel in the water.

But things didn’t go too smoothly at the start, noticing that she wasn’t a natural swimmer Sinead reached out to Level Water so Sophie could have one-to-one sessions.

The lessons paid off, it wasn’t long until the proud mother was watching from the poolside cheering on Sophie swimming her first width, followed by a length when she was competing in Canada.

Ms York said: “I am amazingly proud of her.

"I know all the hard work that it takes to get there and all of the hours that she has spent in the pool."

She added: "Having a disability doesn’t have to be a negative thing.

"It's about looking at different ways to do things and adapting situations."

In 2023 Sophie achieved a number of personal bests at the championships, this year she will be competing in an international competition alongside some of the most professional young swimmers across the world.

But she has a good track record having won a series of races at the Somerset ASA Counties, where she was crowned the Junior Para County Champion earlier this year.

However, despite being a superb swimmer, Sophie is unsure if she will continue with the sport after finishing higher education.

"I still love subjects at school, so I'm trying to balance it out in my head,” she told the BBC.

[ The British Junior Para-Swimming Championships 2024 take place at the Alan Higgs Centre, Coventry, on 8-9 June. ]

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