Meet Helen…

Last year, Helen won the Panathlon Jack Petchey Outstanding Achievement award. When we heard about it, we asked her to tell us a bit more about her life…and how she’s been keeping fit and connected during lockdown. #CONNECT

I live in Essex with my mum, step-dad and brother, Will and sister, Beth. I am 18 and I go to college. I do Catering, ASDAN, Maths, English and ICT. Will is 20 and he is at Nottingham University. Beth is 22 and she is at home and doing a Master’s.

My hobbies are swimming, running and cycling, cooking and Project 21. Project 21 is a dancing group for people who have got Down’s syndrome. In the summer I want to do a triathlon with my mum. I think it’ll be a bit hard to keep going!

I was pleased to win the Panathlon Award because I liked doing the Panathlon swimming competitions with my school. I’ve gone to Panathlon lots of times and I like winning races. It’s a nice trophy and I’ve got it on my shelf.

My swimming story

My brother taught me to swim when I was 10 when we were on holiday. Then I had swimming lessons and my mum told me I learnt very quickly. I did Panathlon swim gala’s and I joined Phoenix swimming club and started doing competitions. I’ve won lots of medals.

Last year I joined Colchester Swimming Club and now I train 5 times a week. I don’t like the early morning swim on Wednesday at 6am because it is hard to get up, but I’ve got to do it. I’ve got 13 junior Down Syndrome World and European records and I’m very proud of myself. I love swimming because I’m really good at it, but I didn’t do lots of competitions last year because of COVID.

I am in the Down Syndrome Swimming Great Britain (DSS-GB) team and I went to Paris in 2017 to the European Down Syndrome Championships. Then I went to Nova Scotia in Canada to compete in the World Down Syndrome Championships in 2018. I won 1 bronze and 1 silver medal and had a great time. Then I went to Sardinia in Italy for the next European Championships in 2019. I won lots of medals and loved it! We were racing in a 50m pool in Sardinia which was outside and it was very hot. I like going to DSS-GB training camps as I can see all my friends there. My best race is IM (Individual Medley) which is butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and front crawl.

My lockdown fitness 

In lockdown I go running with mum and Beth, and cycling with my step-dad Clive, and my mum. We like to cycle to a pub for lunch and my favourite is called the Bicycle pub. I’ve got it on my Strava and it is 18 km to get there and then 18 km to come home again. It has made me even more fit and I got some PBs (personal best times) when I started back to swimming in September.

Plans for the future

In the future I want to keep swimming and keep fit and healthy. I want to get a job when I am older and I want to work in a hotel because I like talking to people, and cooking and being a waitress and I’ll be really good at it. I’ve done lots of cooking in lockdown and I can make my family a dinner, such as sweet and sour chicken, stir fry and shepherd’s pie. Today I made soda bread and vegetable soup with my catering teacher from college on zoom. It tasted delicious. Last week I did a zoom with my friends from DSS-GB and I showed them how to make chocolate muffins. I think they loved it!

I have lots of friends with Down syndrome and it’s really brilliant to swim for Great Britain, because you get to travel round the world and meet lots of people. It’s very exciting! So if you have Down syndrome it’s good to do sport because it helps you keep fit and if you train hard then you can be good enough to be in Team GB!

Thank you Helen…congratulations on all your achievements and all the best for the future!