Ability not Disability

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Nationwide and DSE help disabled athletes reach their dreams. Here is Natalie Jones’s story

5 September 2012: This summer has seen able-bodied and disabled athletes from around the UK compete in a wide variety of sports, and Nationwide, in partnership with Disability Sport Events, is proud of its role in supporting disabled athletes achieve their dream of competing amongst the very best. 

Disability Sport Events (DSE), an organisation set up to create equality in sport and physical activity, has given many disabled athletes the opportunity to compete against regional, national and international athletes, placing them in a stronger position to compete at the highest level. A whole host of athletes who have come through the DSE program have been selected to compete in this month’s sporting events, many of which have inspirational stories to tell. 

Here is Natalie Jones’s story. 

Natalie Jones – Swimmer

Natalie was born in October 1984. After an emergency caesarean, Natalie did not breathe for about nine minutes. It wasn't until she was about six months old that her parents noticed she was reaching and grabbing everything with her right hand - Natalie was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Her parents were told that she would not be able to ride a bike, play tennis or learn to swim properly.

At the age of ten, Natalie’s parents took her to a local swimming club, the Colchester Phoenix that was geared towards teaching disabled people how to swim. To begin with Natalie preferred to watch the other children from the side of the pool, but the club founder, Maggie Hargraves – herself an amputee – convinced Natalie to give it a go. After the session, Maggie commented: 'I don't know what it is about Natalie but she has a lovely swimming stroke and she could go far.’

The Disability Sport Events (DSE) and Nationwide Building Society partnership in athletics and swimming over the last 12 years, has meant Natalie and many other swimmers have had the opportunity to compete at structured competitions against regional, national and international swimmers. Natalie competed in the DSE Regional Championships and went on to compete at the DSE National Juniors, short course and British Internationals. It was whilst swimming at a DSE event that Natalie was spotted by British Swimming and put onto the talent programme.

Natalie went on to be selected for the Paralympic Games in Sydney, Athens and Beijing. Her medal tally consists of two gold and two bronze Paralympic medals.

Natalie is competing in the 400m freestyle, 200m IM, 50m freestyle, 50m fly and the 100m freestyle at the Paralympics 2012.

Natalie’s mum said: “The Colchester Phoenix – Natalie’s first swimming club - motto is 'Ability not Disability' and the help that Nationwide and DSE have given should be a legacy to other inspirational young people. Natalie did learn to ride a bike and to play tennis, so after swimming who knows... Tour de France or Wimbledon could be next!”

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