A Blackpool woman whose parents were told she would ‘never be an athlete’ has been chosen to represent Great Britain in the Special Olympics.
Erin Green, 18, will represent her country as a swimmer in the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi next month.
The profoundly deaf teenager, who was born prematurely and given just a 50 per cent chance of survival by doctors, will compete in the 400m, 800m and 1,500m freestyle.
She took up swimming ten years ago, and competed in nationals all over the country before being selected for the seven-strong British team out of a pool of 70 hopefuls.
She said: “In 2013 I competed in the national Special Olympics in Bath, representing the North West. I was 13 then. I have been competing ever since then.
“I got selected again for the national Special Olympics in Sheffield in 2017 where I competed in the 400m front crawl, the 200m front crawl, and the 400m backstroke. I won bronze in the 400m front crawl, and gold in the 450m relay.
“That’s why I continued training, in the hope that I might get selected one day, and when it came around and I applied for the Great Britain team and I got the letter back saying I had been selected, I was amazed.
“It was always my goal to compete at an international level. I was amazed and it was like a dream come true.”
Erin, who lives on Preston Old Road, was born at 24 weeks weighing just one pound 10 ounces, which resulted in total hearing loss.
Doctors gave her just a 50 per cent chance of survival, and it was five months before mum Alison and dad Mark were allowed to take her home.
Mark, 54, said: “Consultants said she’d never be an athlete because of her lungs and her deafness - well how wrong could they be? It just goes to show what dedication and hard work can do.
“She has been training since she was young just to be selected to represent Blackpool. Out of the whole of Lancashire, she’s the only one who has been selected for the Great Britain team, because they are only taking seven swimmers.
“She was born at Blackpool Vic at just 24 weeks. She was in the special baby care unit for five months before she came home, and even then she was on oxygen, so it took her quite a long time to pull through. She’s been on a long journey to get to where she has.
“You won’t meet much more determined than Erin.”
Erin said she learned to swim after getting into trouble in the water while on holiday in Greece when she was four.
“When my parents weren’t looking I jumped in the pool and I was basically drowning until a person grabbed me and got me out,” she said. “After that my mum sent me for swimming lessons.
“In 2010 I decided I wanted to do more competitive swimming and that’s how we found the Blackpool Polar Bears (a swimming club for disabled children). I started swimming with them every Monday morning.”
Erin was fitted with a cochlear implant, an electronic device that replaces the function of a damaged inner ear, when she was three - however she relies on lip reading and sign language while in the water.
She trains five days a week at Moor Park Leisure Centre on Bristol Avenue, and with the Blackpool Aquatics swim club.
“The chance to swim for Great Britain is just the conclusion of all the hard work she’s put in,” Mark said. “We’re very proud of her.
“She gets up at 5am and trains for two hours non-stop. She’s an endurance swimmer, not a sprinter.
“I think Erin is very determined in herself. We don’t push her too hard. Even when she’s poorly she still wants to go swimming. She’s very self-driven.
“She’s always had difficulties in her life and probably always will do, but she faces it. We just help support her along.
“I think we always knew she would come far. When she started swimming at national events and her confidence grew and her times improved, with her continual hard work everything started to come together.
“It will be tough for her but it will be a fantastic experience. The whole family’s behind her.”
Erin flies out to Abu Dhabi on March 7 with her mum, dad, grandparents Marlene and Ron, and coach Emma Inglis.
She said: “Hopefully after Abu Dhabi I will continue to compete in swimming and go to the Deaflympics or the Paralympics. I have got an open mind and I’m willing to compete anywhere. I just love swimming so much.”
Erin’s coach Emma Inglis, of the Blackpool Polar Bears, said: “Erin was really nervous when she first came, and quite shy, but now she’s got this confidence and she’s been dedicated to her sport, and it’s always been her dream to represent her country.
“I think she’s got a really good chance because she’s so determined and she’s very good at pacing herself, especially at the long-distance events.
“She’s training at the moment five times a week. She’s really been determined in the last 12 months at making sure she’s at her fittest for the Worlds.”
Emma, 31, was also selected to act as head coach for the Great British swim team at the games.
Her mother, Blackpool Polar Bears founder Lynda Inglis said: “This is a great achievement for both Emma and Erin, and the club has benefited because we have never had anyone qualify for the Worlds.
“We have been lucky enough this time to get Erin through, so we are very, very proud, of both Erin and Emma, for putting both Blackpool and the Polar Bears on the map.
“I’m just over the moon.”