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Strength lies within me now – Shared Lives in the Special Olympics

If there was ever an example of the transformative power that sports can have on people’s lives, then for David and Mark, two men who receive support from Gateshead Shared Lives Service, being a member of the sporting club has provided them with a platform to showcase their talents across the world.

David was searching for an activity he enjoyed and discovered power lifting, something he fancied that he’d be good at! David, and Adrian, his Shared Lives carer, set out a training regime tailored to his needs and energy levels, with Adrian giving David encouragement and advice. Since then the improvement in David’s wellbeing is huge and plain for all to see.

David is more confident in his own ability, very focussed when training and is a source of help, support and encouragement to all the other athletes – to the extent he has been made Special Olympics captain! David has also changed his eating habits and has a generally healthier lifestyle; he has gained confidence in public speaking and has recently been asked to give a talk at his old school. David continues to improve – having increased his weights limit by nearly 20kg in the past year.

Mark, also a powerlifter, has improved his technique and the weight he can lift on a continual basis since he commenced in the sport in 2014.  Mark has applied himself, his self-esteem has flourished and he has built great relationships with his team mates.  Although Mark has not always won medals in every Powerlifting competition he has competed in, he is always striving to be the best.  Mark is also a centre forward at Special Olympics Gateshead Tyne and Wear’s football team, and has represented the club in regional athletics events.

There were a few disbelieving eyes when David and Mark first began to come to the gym, and work at power lifting – arguably one of the toughest sports.   It was a true statement of ‘look what we can do’.  Initially deadlifting a broomstick until they mastered the technique, David and Mark quickly grasped what was required of them if they going to ‘make their mark’ in the world of powerlifting.

The tenacity and commitment that David and Mark have applied over the last three years has brought unprecedented success.  Notching up a total of 12 regional and 5 national Special Olympics Powerlifting competitions between them, their most prestigious event to date was the Special Olympics Great Britain National Games in Sheffield in August 2017.  All the hours of sweat and toil from their training paid off and they dominated their weight category, with David winning a gold medal and Mark securing the silver.

David, was becoming too good not to be noticed. Shortly after the National Games, he was selected to represent Great Britain in the Commonwealth Powerlifting Federation Championships in Potchefstroom, South Africa in late September 2017.  Overcoming  achieving a personal best in the deadlift, he won the Gold medal.

The Special Olympics motto is “Let me win, but, if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt”.  The Special Olympics programme recognises those athletes who demonstrate courage, dedication and sportsmanship and there are no better representatives than David and Mark. In January 2018, they both received notice that they had been selected by Special Olympics Great Britain to represent their country in the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E in March 2019.  After the exploits of Paul Gascoigne and Brendan Foster, there are two more Gateshead residents who are ready to showcase their talents to the rest of the world.  David and Mark , used to be two young men who would look to others for strength and confidence.  However, they now know that these are attributes that lie within them.  With energy, commitment and some great support from Shared Lives along the way, these are two individuals who have unleashed a human spirit which has been truly compelling.