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How swimming changed my life

Athletics for me has always been a source of joy, whether it be to escape outside stresses, establish special friendships and explore the limits of the human body.

However, my success, or even participation in athletics, seemed out of the question ten years ago. When I was six years old, sports was a part of my life that I took for granted. But that changed very quickly. Over several long and arduous weeks, I battled with a litany of illnesses, comprising interminable headaches and fever. It was determined that I had a major health issue that, although it could be resolved by surgery, had a high risk of permanent disabilities due to the location of the surgery on the cerebellum, with the potential for the loss of my speech, hearing, balance and coordination.


I awoke from the surgery and couldn’t walk, much less move my legs, but I was determined, almost stubbornly, to return to the state I was in before the illness. Over the following weeks, I was involved in countless hours of rehabilitation, as I learnt to walk again. I was barred from playing sports for the following six months and permanently prohibited from participation in contact sports of any kind. For the months, even years, following the surgery, I struggled in athletics, with poor balance and coordination, an incredibly difficult reality to face given the identity of my youth, an athletic and playful kid. At the time, sport was an indelible part of my identity, and one I didn’t think could be erased. That surgery changed everything, but it taught me, more than anything, the power of sports in time of struggle and difficulty.

In the time following, athletic success was what I stubbornly chased, and which continued to elude me. But that didn’t matter. I was having fun, learning valuable skills and forming close bonds with my teammates.


Today, my circumstances are different. I have been fortunate to achieve unexpected success in athletics, as a three-time provincial champion in swimming, along with success in cross country and badminton. That’s great, but it wasn’t those results that gave me the greatest joy and happiness. Instead, it was the difficult and perpetual swim practices, often early in the morning, that I have cherished the most over the past several years. Truly, it is not about the destination, but always about the journey, and sports is an incredible journey.


By: William Blair

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© 2018 by The Active Mental Health Initiative Team

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