By Luke Baker
COUNTY DURHAM swimmer Lyndon Longhorne says competing in the London 2012 pool as part of this year’s National Paralympic Day has only made him even more determined to fulfil his dream of making it to the Rio Paralympics in 2016.
Longhorne, who is from Crook and is a previous winner of the overall title at The Northern Echo's Local Heroes awards, travelled to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Saturday to take part in a Great Britain versus Europe head-to-head in the pool for the second annual National Paralympic Day celebrations.
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It was the first time that the London Aquatics Centre had hosted international swimming since the 2012 Paralympics, and Longhorne certainly made sure he enjoyed the experience in front of a loud home crowd.
The 18-year-old finished fifth in the multi-classification 50m freestyle first up, before coming fourth in the 50m backstroke and fifth again in the 100m freestyle as well as helping Britain to second in the 200m freestyle relay.
And Longhorne, who acknowledges that illness slowed him down towards the end of last season, was delighted with how he performed in the 50m freestyle especially.
“It went absolutely brilliantly for me,” said Longhorne. “It was my first time competing at National Paralympic Day and the atmosphere was amazing.
“It was brilliant to go down and compete. This is the beginning of a new season for me, so to see where I’m at is great – everything is going smoothly and I’m swimming really well.
“I wasn’t expecting it to go this well as the first race of the season but I got pretty close to my personal best. Ever since I started swimming, Rio 2016 was in my mind.
“I missed out on London but I picked myself back up – I thought I can’t let that pull me down, so it’s all about the last two years of prep for Rio.”
Swimming was one of four sports contested at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as part of the day’s celebrations with boccia, goalball and wheelchair basketball taking place in the Copper Box Arena.
And with events also taking place in Birmingham and Liverpool in order to celebrate and promote disability sport, Longhorne was pleased to see the day helping to deliver on the London legacy.
“National Paralympic Day is brilliant to make everyone aware of the different disability sports and have them give it a go,” he added.
“It shows there are no boundaries to competing in sport – no matter what the disability is, be it physical or mental, you can still compete.”
* National Paralympic Day aims to promote Paralympic sport across the UK, giving people the opportunity to relive the wonder of 2012 and to support Paralympic sports and athletes. #NPD2014 is supported by the Spirit of 2012 Trust. Visit Paralympics.org.uk/npd2014