Journey to Rio’s Paralympic Games
William is a Gold Award participant from New Zealand. He lives with cerebral palsy (mainly on the left side of his body), which is a condition that means that he has reduced strength and control of the muscles. In 2016, William qualified and competed for New Zealand at the Rio Paralympic Games. Below is William’s story of his journey with the Award and his success at the Olympics.
The award has prepared me for my future and for leaving school as it covers a wide range of activities (service, skill, physical activity, improving communication and interacting with others.) This is hugely important as it helps develop these life skills which are very important going out into the work force.
“Although I have had cerebral palsy since birth I have always loved playing sports like football and cricket however it wasn’t until 2012 that my dream to run at the Paralympic Games started. My family and I were on a holiday in London which happened to be at the same time of the Paralympic Games. It was then when I saw people with similar disabilities to my running in a stadium filled with thousands of people that I knew I wanted to be a Paralympian.
“When I got back to New Zealand I joined an athletics club and over the next three years I trained hard with my club. In 2015 as a 15 year old, after classification changes and injuries I managed to qualify for my first World Champs in Doha. This was a huge experience as I was the youngest in some of my events by 10 years and I manged to finish 6th in the 400m and 7th in the Long Jump.
“In 2016, I then managed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. I competed in the 400m, 800m, and Long Jump. The Paralympic were an incredible experience for me as being part of a New Zealand Paralympic Team and living in the Olympic village for 3 weeks was surreal. I managed to win 2 bronze medals in the 400m and 800m and came 6th in the Long Jump. It was a dream come true to compete for New Zealand and win 2 medals. Since then I competed for New Zealand at the Para-athletics World Champs in London where I won sliver in the 800m.
“I also used my time in the Paralympic Village as my trip away for the award, an experience where I learnt a lot! The activities side of the award has also been extremely helpful. Although I was already doing athletics and guitar (which I used as my physical activity and skill.)”
The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is a great opportunity to get out of your comfort zone, to try new things, and to serve others. You gain experience in a lot of different areas and can discover things that you enjoy that you never thought you would.
“I am currently training for the Para athletics World Champs in Dubai next year and then hopefully on to Tokyo 2020 where I am aiming to improve on my Rio Performances. However, all this would not have been achieved without my faith and the support of my parents and coach as well as my wider support team. There is a lot of work by a lot of people that goes on behind the scenes!”