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26th Mar 2017
Paralympic swimmer Fran Williamson pictured speaking to NWHS students at the schools Atrium

“It always seems impossible until it’s done” – that was the inspirational message given to an audience of Year 10 students in North Walsham by retired paralympic swimmer Fran Williamson.

The five-time world champion was visiting North Walsham High School as part of the Sky Sports Living For Sport initiative, which sees athletes go into schools to inspire and mentor young people.

“I hope that my story will make you stop and think about what you could do to change your life,” she told her audience of around 40 Year 10 students, as she revealed that she had only started swimming at the age of 12, and prior to that was terrified of water.

Just one year later she broke her first world record, and she went on to break three world records – which she still holds – and 18 British records.

“It’s not about other people telling you what to do, it’s what you decide to do.  If you decide you want to sit on the sofa and play video games, that is what you will do.  If you decide you will break a world record, that is what you will do.  It’s up to you.”

The former paralympian revealed that she had performed poorly at school.  “I was a nightmare.  I left school with the worst grades I could possibly have got – everyone told me I wasn’t very clever.   I realised I had let myself down.” 

Williamson decided to return to education at age 22, winning a university place and eventually graduating with a First Class degree and a Masters.

She told her audience, “You might feel a little bit lost now – Year 10 is an awful time in your life.  Work out what you want to do, and just do it.  It always seems impossible until it’s done!”

Williamson, who was born with cerebral palsy, took part in the 2004 Athens Paralympics and the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, winning four medals.  She retired in 2010.

NWHS PE teacher Iain Mills said that the presentation had been really inspirational for the young audience.  “It’s fantastic that someone who has achieved so much, and got over so  many hurdles, takes the time to come into our school and spend time with our students.  Seeing Fran  with all her medals was a real inspiration for our students.”