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Page last updated at 15:32 GMT, Monday, 1 February 2010
Paralympian Peter Hull champions disability sport
Peter Hull
Peter Hull has been promoting local disability sport since 1997

"I'd rather see it as "adaptive sport" - get rid of "disability sport" and concentrate on what the individual can do, rather than what they can't do," says Peter Hull, Hampshire's Development Officer, Disability Sport.

It is an approach which has taken Peter all the way to the gold medal rostrum of the Paralympic Games.

Peter was born with no legs and shortened arms.

Physios told him that to be physically active he should rely on upper body strength.

He was encouraged to start swimming but recalls that his early attempts did not go well.

Peter said: "One of my earliest recollections is actually falling off the step into the water and thrashing around, which makes things worse. Luckily a friend was nearby who was able to jump in and bring me back. After that I put a rubber ring round my neck, just to get confidence."

Joining the Rushmoor Mallards swimming club, it was clear that he excelled in the pool - winning his first gala at the age of 10.

Paralympic success

In 1984, aged 19, he joined the national Paralympic swimming squad. He competed at the Seoul Paralympics in 1988 and came fourth in four races.

He said: "That is the most frustrating position to get in any race - but they were all personal bests, so I was very pleased with that."

Peter Hull 1992
Peter Hull broke three world record at the 1992 Paralympics.

An intensive training regime paid off in Barcelona four years later when he won gold medals in the 50m backstroke and freestyle and 100m freestyle - all in world record times.

He remembers: "There's no feeling like it. You spend years building up to achieve something, making sacrifices, eating the right foods, fighting through injuries - it all pays off - you are the best at what you do. No-one can take that away.

"Its a very arrogant sportsman who says they have totally done it on their own.

"It was personal belief, I believe I could do it but that is only because I had the support of coaches, physios, family and friends behind me. I remember a cold flannel on my face from my mum when I didn't want to get out of bed to go training - that's a wake-up call! It's knowing that support is behind you when it gets tough."

If you achieve in sport as in life or business, it gives you confidence and makes you feel good about yourself
Peter Hull

He also went through a "phase" of taking part in marathons to raise money for charity - he completed 12 marathons (including six London marathons) and has done a charity tandem skydive. He was made an MBE in 1991 for services to disability sport.

With the success came the inevitable fame and being cast as a role model and figurehead for disability sport - artist Marc Quinn produced a white marble statue of him.

When a sportswear company wanted to use his image on an advert for the London Marathon, Peter admitted to being initially "hesitant."

He explains: "When I saw the poster it was looking at my ability, not the disability. I found that quite powerful. And posters 20 foot high appeared all round London - which was kind of cool!"

Sports development

That philosophy is key to his current position as Hampshire's Disability Sports Development Officer working with grassroots sports groups and organisations as well as governing bodies and schools to raise awareness of disability sport.

Although he admits he would like to do himself out of a job.

He says: "There shouldn't be a need for a disability officer - it all should be inclusive, but because there are barriers - for ethnic minorities or for girls in sport - although getting better - there are still issues."

Peter Hull
Peter Hull took part in 12 marathons

The role involves promoting multi-sport clubs and providing opportunities for future generations of Paralympic stars with events such as Hampshire Parallel Games in June 2010 - a multi-sports event for young people with disabilities.

He is passionate about "adaptive" sports. He says: "Wheelchair basketball is basketball played in wheelchairs - no more complicated than that. There are seven national England football teams - including blind or amputee teams."

One aspect he is focussing on is "parallel coaching" when experienced sports trainers adapt their coaching practises for an individual with a disability.

"In any coaching situation, everyone is different - in group of 20 every kids, not every one is going to be able to dribble a ball the same way - so you adapt your techniques to suit them. It is extremely rewarding, its no different for coaching anyone else."

Representing your country at the highest level may not be within everyone's reach, but Peter insists creating opportunities can make a difference to people's lives.

He says: "Sport got me where I am today. I've got a quality of life - I work and live independently. It's not just physical fitness, it's mental as well. If you achieve in sport as in life or business, it gives you confidence and makes you feel good about yourself."



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