The Ottershaw Society were delighted to hear of local girl Hannah Russell’s success in the Paralympics, aged only 16. Here are some of Hannah’s thoughts on what it takes to become a paralympic silver medallist.

I started swimming at the age of four, I loved the water from thatHannah Russell very early age. The feeling of splashing around was great fun. Learning to swim properly was very rewarding and the praise I received motivated me. I joined Woking swimming club when I was seven and have never looked back.

I watched the Beijing Olympics and saw what Ellie Simmonds achieved when she was only 13. This encouraged me. At the start of Year Eight, I asked my parents if I could change clubs and put in more hours. It was a risk, as I had to make sure I could complete all my school work too.

Being a swimmer has always been my ambition. When I was seven and we were asked to draw a picture of ourselves in our dream profession I drew an image of myself in swimsuit, hat and goggles. I do my studies though and would like to go to university.

Preparing for the 2012 Paralympic Games meant I was regularly up at 5am in the morning and not in bed until midnight. So if was very demanding but enjoyable at the same time. I have 100% trust in my coaches and along with my family and school they created a great environment for me to train and prepare in. If you fail to plan you are planning to fail!

This may sound strange but I draw inspiration and learn so much from the people I am with day to day. Team mates, friends and family have so much to offer and this is what influences me and makes me who I am. I do not think many people realize this but we all have values that inspire people. It does help though to have some team mates who are leaders and champions in their chosen events.

Being part of the Paralympics was quite simply “A dream come true” and exceeded all my expectations. It is an honour to represent my country but more important for me was to make all my family and friends proud of me and try my best for the thousands of supporters who made the effort to come and watch us. My three medals are an achievement for all my friends and all those people with whom I am connected.

I will never forget the noise of the crowds, the friendly nature of my team mates and opponents, oh and the food was fantastic!

The Paralympics have definitely changed people’s perceptions of disability. It has been really pleasing to read and hear people’s comments in the media about their positive experiences of the games. The more exposure we receive instigates further discussion and this can only be a good thing. The leadership shown by a range of management and administrators must be congratulated and I would like to thank them for their convictions.

My life has not changed that much since competing in the London Paralympics. Apart from the occasional school visit and “Meeting the Queen” oh, and a cuddle from Prince Harry when he came to support us at the pool, my life is the same. Being an elite athlete is all about everyday life and the bright lights will have to wait a few more years.

My advice to other disabled people who would like to take up swimmingHannah Russell#1 is…

Do not be afraid to try things and if you do experiment, you will be amazed at the support you will get, being scared or worried is a natural thing and you can turn this into a challenge. Swimming is really suited to people with a range of impairments because the water acts like extra support.

Rio 2016 games are the next big one, you cannot hide from them and I have already been training since mid September. The London games have set off a burning desire in me to be the best I can be and that journey begins now. I also want to share my experiences with others and encourage them to follow their dreams.

The Society would like to congratulate Hannah on her fantastic achievement and wish her well in her future challenges.

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