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Swimmer's bid to represent GB at Paralympics boosted by Dorset Community Foundation grant

By Andrew Diprose [email protected]

Published: May 13, 2024 | Updated: 13th May 2024

Swimmer Harry Stewart’s bid to represent Great Britain at this year’s Paris Paralympics has been boosted with a grant from Dorset Community Foundation.

He has been awarded £1,000 from the foundation’s Lord Lieutenant’s Fund for Young and Talented, which is also supported by Wimborne engineering company Superior Seals.

The fund awards grants of up to £1,000 towards costs that might prevent youngsters from making the most of their natural ability – such as buying kit and clothing or helping to cover the cost of competition entry fees, coaching, travel and accommodation.

This year it has awarded a total of more than £11,000 to 15 young sports people.

Harry, 20, from Bridport, will learn on May 20 if he has been selected for the Paralympic squad.

The 100m breaststroke and butterfly swimmer has given himself every chance by winning gold on his debut for Great Britain in the breaststroke at the European Championships in Madeira last month.

The youngster, who has Asperger’s, said: “It would mean a lot for me to get to the Paralympics, it is probably the biggest thing you can get to swim in, it’s a great experience.

“There’s only a small margin of people that get to go, it’s every four years and only 24 people get picked, ten boys and 14 girls. And obviously there’s so many people trying to get into the squad so it would just be amazing.”

He dedicated his victory in Madeira to his stepfather Matthew Norris, who died suddenly in February.

His mum Dinah said: “The fact that Harry has managed to keep going has shown his strength of character because it’s not been easy for all of us.”

She also looks after Harry’s severely disabled younger brother Louis and works part-time as a receptionist at Caroline Street Aesthetics in Beaminster.

She and Harry applied for the grant to help with the costs of having to train and compete. Although some of the financial burden is borne by British Swimming Dinah has to find most of it.

Harry has been swimming competitively since he joined Bridport Barracudas at the age of nine.

He followed his coach, Chris Beal from Bridport to South Dorset Tornadoes in Portland.

When he retired Harry moved to West Dorset Swimming Club and under the guidance of coach Colin Cracknell.

He progressed rapidly to become one of the top 24 swimmers in the country and competed in the mainstream UK national championships.

He opted to compete at Paralympic level because he and Dinah felt it was more suited to his condition.

Harry will represent Great Britain again at the World Series Paralympic Cup in Berlin at the end of May.

He said: “I was so pleased to get the grant because it will help me massively.

“I want to win a Paralympic medal and show people that having a low IQ, ASD or learning impairment is nothing to be ashamed of.

“You can still do things that other people may not be able to.

“Sport, and especially swimming, are what helped my confidence at school when I found everything else stressful and difficult.”

Grant Robson, Chief Executive, Dorset Community Foundation, said: “Harry is exactly the kind of person this fund was set up for.

“He is a real star in the making but despite overcoming all of these barriers he still runs the risk of being limited by finances.

“We are so pleased that, with the support of Superior Seals, we can make that burden a little lighter.

“Our fingers are all crossed that he makes the Paralympic squad but we are sure he is going to go on and succeed whatever happens.”

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