From a very young age I realised I was different. But being different hasn’t held me back, in fact it’s pushed me forward. I’ve lived with restrictions all my life which have frustrated me hugely but I’ve managed to find a way to escape.
I am a swimmer. I’ve swum since I was a toddler and now I’m 27. The sport really empowers me, but it’s much more to me than just a sport. Not only does it keep me fit but swimming relaxes me and the pool is a place where I feel most calm. It also makes me feel good when I think of what swimming has helped me to achieve. In the water I’m no different to anyone else, except for one thing – I’m a really good swimmer.
Swimming has helped my concentration span to improve dramatically. Due to my learning difficulties I need to really concentrate to do any task, which is very draining. It was often the case that I would lose interest before the job was done and by the end of the day I’d be worn out. Thanks to swimming, I find it much easier to pay full attention to whatever I’m doing out of the water. The sport requires dedication, commitment and concentration and now I’m able to pay more attention for longer.
My swimming career seriously took off when I was 11 and I was approached by the talent scout for the national swimming team. My competitive nature took charge and I jumped at the chance to train and get better. I’ve my mum to thank for supporting my will to succeed. She always encouraged me to better myself by setting challenges for me, whether it was to see how slowly I could vacuum the floor – so I did it properly – or how quickly I could set the table.
Not only do I swim for my country, but swimming has helped me with my frustrations and difficulties I face daily. My key worker, Pam Hibell, at Craegmoor Healthcare’s Strathmore House is very supportive and sees great differences in how I’m changing as a person and even how I interact with others. It has boosted my self-esteem and has given me confidence in myself and what I can achieve. I’ve accepted my limitations and work around them. Swimming has allowed me to channel my anger and nervous energy into something positive.
I’ve been all over the world to compete and feel very privileged. Swimming has given me experiences and friends I would never have known. I’m truly touched by the many people who support me and who are interested in what I’m doing next.
My fellow residents and staff at Strathmore House are right behind me. The staff even secured funding from Craegmoor’s head office to help fly me over to South Africa with the team where we were competing for the Down’s syndrome World Championships, which we won. I became world champion at 25 metres breast stroke and we set a world record for the four by 25 metres medley relay. It’s funny something as simple as a sport could enrich my life so much.
Anita Linton has learning difficulties and is a world champion