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13 Questions: David Roberts

by Ouch Team

11th November 2008

Describing himself as a “small town bloke” from the Welsh valleys, David Roberts is actually right up there with the best of Great Britain’s Paralympians. Winning four gold medals in Beijing not only got him the job of carrying the GB flag at the closing ceremony, but also equalled Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson’s record of 11 Paralympic golds. David’s love of swimming began after he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of eleven, and he’s barely left the pool since. Fortunately, we managed to coax him out of the water long enough to answer our questions ...

Uppermost in my mind today is ...

David Roberts in action in the pool
Anti-Bullying Week, which starts on 17th November. It’s a massive honour to have been asked to be a part of it, as it’s something I believe in passionately. I was bullied at school and I don’t want others to go through what I did. My disability was the main reason for my physical and verbal bullying, because I walked like a penguin. I didn’t feel I had to respond to them, though - I just thought they were sad lonely individuals - but it’s never nice being bullied.

People think I'm ...

Serious. Others think I’m generous and kind because I do things in my own time, like run a disabled swimming club and visit schools to show them my medals. But I think being a Paralympian is a privilege, and with that comes the need to promote sport and fair play.

I want to ban ...

Drugs. Not just in sport, but generally. Drug taking was a very prominent issue when I was being brought up in the valley, and several boys I went to school with have died from taking them. It’s the million dollar question as to why they get into drugs; I’ll never understand it.

Not a lot of people know that I’m ...

A fully qualified swimming teacher. I can teach anyone, and my disability has never been an issue.

I struggle with ...

David Roberts
Cold mornings, as my body gets stiff when it’s cold. And Manchester United winning the football, because I’m a Liverpool and Cardiff City fan!

My ideal dinner guest is ...

Nelson Mandela, because he’s a hero and he fascinates me. I’ve read his autobiography, and he’s an inspiration for sure.

I spend most of my time ...

In the swimming pool in Swansea. I train nine times a week for four and a half hours a day. I get a bit wrinkly in the water, but with time the wrinkles disappear after a swim. One day, though, they will come and stay!

My first job was ...

As an assistant on a summer play scheme for disabled children. It was brilliant - the children were always so happy. They were like little lumps of clay waiting to be moulded, untouched by prejudice.

My favourite drink is ...

Gingerbread latte.

My favourite food is ...

Salmon. I just think it’s really tasty. It’s also full of protein, so it’s a good energy source.

I started swimming because ...

David at the end of another successful race
I was told it was the best form of physiotherapy for me. When I was swimming, I found that I was able to concentrate for longer, it helped my coordination and I became more flexible too. If I don’t swim now my muscles tighten up and I have all sorts of problems. Being big - I’m 6ft 3” - there’s a lot of me to fall over.

Winning four golds in Beijing was ...

A dream come true. I privately targeted winning all four, but didn’t tell anyone except my girlfriend and my coach. If I’d told the press and it didn’t happen, they would have wanted to know why.

If you're being bullied, my advice is ...

Seek help. Speak to a teacher, parent or friend - you don’t have to go through it alone. People worry that telling someone will make it worse, but it won’t. There’s always someone who will help you.

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