A MEDAL-WINNING paralympic swimmer who beat the odds to continue with his love of sport is supporting the Hartlepool Mail’s drive to get people fit.
When Kevin Walsh was just 18 years old, he was diagnosed with Becker Muscular Dystrophy and told for the sake of his health he must stop playing sport.
Eight years later and Kevin, now 45, was celebrating a relay bronze medal at the Barcelona Games in 1992.
Today, after a remarkable career which defied medics, Kevin urged people in the town to realise the importance of keeping fit.
He backed the Mail’s Race for Fitness campaign saying: “Exercise can build people’s self-esteem and confidence.
“Sport has been my life, and exercise can change other people’s lives.”
For two years after Kevin was diagnosed with the condition, which causes muscles to slowly weaken and doesn’t have a cure, he admitted he did “absolutely nothing”.
Then he decided he wasn’t going to let it ruin his life.
He became the first Muscular Dystrophy sufferer ever to swim at the Paralympic Games and achieved two world records and numerous British records, one of which the 50m buterfly still stands to this very day.
He also competed at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta as well as various European Championship events.
After retiring he continued to defy the odds.
It wasn’t until he was 42, after a fall which broke two bones in his back, that he ended up in a wheelchair full time.
The average age for sufferers having to rely on a wheelchair is 27, but at that age Kevin was still spending most of his time in the swimming pool competing.
“The only thing that is stopping you from doing something is yourself,” said Kevin, who lives in the Owton Manor area of Hartlepool.
“I soon realised that if you put your mind to something it’s amazing how well you can get on.
“Sport and fitness isn’t about whether you can win everything you take part in, it’s about improving your own life.”
Even now he doesn’t let the condition stop him from getting on with his life.
Kevin works as a training officer at Belle Vue Community Sports and Youth Centre, in Kendal Road, Hartlepool and still very much enjoys his second passion in life, music.
Inspirational Kevin is the latest individual to support the Mail’s Race for Fitness.
He is urging town residents to get behind the campaign and get involved with health and fitness in Olympic year.
If you want to join the illustrious list of names including Prime Minister David Cameron and Lord Sebastian Coe then get in touch.
Contact Chris Cordner by writing to him at New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (01429) 239377.