Paralympian to inspire pupils to harness mental toughness

Tue 4th Dec '12

Tim Prendergast running

Sky Sports Living for Sport Athlete Mentor Tim Prendergast is spending December visiting students across London sharing his story of how mental toughness helped him come to terms with losing his sight and go on to become a gold medal winning paralympian.

Fresh from competing at the London 2012 Paralympic Games where he set a new personal best in the 800m T13 final, New Zealand born Tim is now harnessing his success as an athlete to encourage secondary school students not to let disability or disadvantages in life hold them back.

It’s a lesson that Tim himself learned as a youngster, when aged just eight he began to lose his sight.  A keen cricketer with aspirations to become a professional sportsman, pilot or doctor, Tim’s initial reaction to his impairment was a complete loss of heart – his future dreams had been shattered and soon he would no longer be able to participate in the sport he loved.

Fortunately the support and encouragement from his family, friends and school soon helped Tim to turn this pessimistic attitude around.  He progressed into a mainstream secondary school and transferred his love of cricket to running, defiantly refusing to let blindness hold him back.  Joining his school’s athletics team, Tim discovered he had new aspirations for his future:

“Running gave me a whole new identity,” commented Tim.  “On the track I progressed from the back of the pack to the one leading from the front and that changed my entire attitude towards myself and my disability.  I stopped pigeonholing myself as the only blind kid at school and instead focussed on my future as an athlete.”

By the end of secondary school, Tim’s talent had been recognised by the New Zealand Academy of Sport which sponsored him through both training and university, enabling him to represent New Zealand for the first time at the Sydney Paralympics aged 21. Tim continued to succeed and in 2004 his sporting ambition was realised when he won a gold medal in the 800m at the Athens Paralympic Games.

Now working as an Athlete Mentor for Sports Living for Sport, Tim is telling his story of how he pushed past his disability to achieve sporting success, to inspire both able and disabled students in his adopted hometown of London.

Sky Sports Living for Sport is designed to empower students and uses the British Athletes Commission’s ‘Six Keys to Success’, which include mental toughness, hunger to achieve, people skills, sports and life knowledge, breaking barriers and planning for success, to help them achieve their own life goals.  During his visit Tim will focus on mental toughness, encouraging the students to react positively when under pressure and refuse to let life’s challenges hold them back.

“I’m proud to hold a Paralymic gold medal and hope my story will show the students I meet in London that we all face challenges, changes and crossroads in our lives.  Nothing is insurmountable and I believe strongly that by being mentally tough and choosing to react positively to whatever comes our way, we can all become winners in life.”

Find out more about Tim

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