DON’T ever tell Richard Gardiner there are things he can’t do.
The 28-year-old from Wood Farm swam 300m at Barton Leisure Centre – despite having only one fully-functioning limb because of cerebral palsy, a condition associated with brain damage at birth.
Determined not to let the condition, or related epilepsy, hold him back, he took on the challenge to raise £400 to pay for a bath hoist.
Richard has been restricted to a wheelchair since childhood, but once inside a pool is transformed.
He said: “I just did it, I didn’t think, and I didn’t think about failing. I really wanted the hoist and went out and did it. I’d usually swim that much in a week. It was good to get out of the pool at the end, and I celebrated with a beer.”
Mother Angie Gardiner said she was overcome with emotion and pride watching him swim the final lap on Tuesday.
The Kennington resident said: “To do this is just incredible and we are so proud. He came home one day and said he wanted the bath hoist, and he would go and swim to raise the money himself.
“Richard loves Barton pool and goes there quite a lot. It’s one of the only activities he can do by himself, so he can just be himself in the water.
“He suffers from epilepsy and there were so many difficult times when he was younger. To see him do something like this is wonderful.
“The Olympics and Paralympics, were great and he loved watching all the athletes, it must have inspired him. Social services have been great. They provided a lovely shower hoist, but he does like baths and decided that he wanted to raise the money himself.”
Richard began the 12 lengths of the pool at 1pm, and was cheered on by Mrs Gardiner, husband Tim, and two pool attendants.
Mrs Gardiner said: “We were screaming and clapping as he got to the end, it was a wonderful moment.
“Even the lifeguard gave a few pounds – we are so grateful.”
Customer relations manager at Barton Leisure Centre, Lee Clayson, said: “This is a great effort by Richard. When he came to us to ask for our support we were more than willing to help.
“It’s great to see someone overcome disability to swim 300m. He is an inspiration to us all.”
About one in 400 children in the UK are affected by cerebral palsy, which covers a range of brain and nervous system conditions that affect movement and co-ordination. There is no cure.
Richard will now attempt to raise £500 for a special bow to take part in archery sessions after being inspired by the Olympics.
Few would bet against him achieving it.