THE BIG INTERVIEW WITH: STEPHEN MORRIS, PARALYMPIC RUNNER
We were interested to learn that a member of the Team GB Paralympic team is a fellow Dyspraxic. Stephen Morris from Cardiff qualifies for the Paralympics in the T20 category and raced at London 2012. He’s a European record holder and runs the 800m and 1500m. We sent him some questions and he got back to us straight away with some pretty inspiring answers. Luckily we didn’t have to chase him!! 🙂
Stephen, when were you diagnosed with Dyspraxia and what were your own dyspraxic traits as we are all very different? Do you have any other diagnoses?
I was diagnosed of Dyspraxia 3 years old. My traits are speech, memory and sometimes my co-donation. As well as Dyspraxia I also have Intellectual/learning Disability too.
What was it like growing up with Dyspraxia in school? Did you get any kind of support in school? When did you realise you were different to other children in your class?
I was very lucky to attend Meadowbank Primary School which gave me speech and language therapy lessons in between my lessons which made massive difference in my life. When I attended High School I realised I was different to the other kids in school. When I went to college I was doing a sport course and the teachers there were very helpful with my Dyspraxia which is fantastic for me and the education was very challenging which helped me to become more independent with my studies during my college years.
When did you first get into running? Has being physically active helped with co-ordination aspects of your Dyspraxia?
When I was 14 years old in my PE lessons we did cross country. My PE Teacher Terry Owens seen me run told me to join the School Cross country team. My running has helped my co-ordination by doing strength and conditioning training which I’ve been doing for 6 years now. It has improved my co-ordination and balance.
What would you advice be to a Dyspraxic child who is worried about PE and taking part in sports through fear of standing out?
My advice to children with Dyspraxia which taken part in PE lessons is to have a go at it and be confident what you can do in PE. Also also tell your PE teacher you have Dyspraxia and make sure they are aware of certain activities you are or not confident about in PE. Also my current Athletics Coach James Thie is aware my Dyspraxia; he knows my strengths and weaknesses which we work on in my training sessions. If you love sport don’t be afraid to have a go at it.
How has running competitively helped you?
My running have helped me to improve my tall posture and to have a good balance. Also it helps my concentration well when I am feeling tired and keeps my brain switched on which is a good thing. Also it helps my brain relax and helped my socialise with other people to make you more confident about myself.
Could you explain a bit about the type of race you run and explain what you Paralympic category means. It is a bit confusing. What conditions or disabilities do the people you are racing against have for example?
The Paralympic have a lot disability categories in athletics and Paralympic committee make sure they put the athletes in the same disability. I am in the T20 Athlete people who have Intellectual disability. Everyone has different disability to me, they might have ADHD Or Asperger Sydrome in my disability category for example.
Besides the co-ordination side of Dyspraxia, many of us also have issues with our short-term memory , sense of direction, low-self esteem. Do any of these things affect you? My memory is bad and always forgetting when i left my keys.
I do suffer short term memory. I do forget this such as my house keys or forgetting to pick up my Jacket which is ignoring. Usually night before i useually get my stuff ready for a next day so everything next day instead rushing around next day.
How often do you train in the run up to a race? Are you quite disciplined with your schedule? Planning ahead can sometimes be hard for Dyspraxics, is there anything you do that helps you plan training and other things like your diet?
I train 6 or 7 days a week and twice a day. On a race week I usually do speed work and light drills to keep my legs fresh for my race. I have a day off or light run day before my race. My coach (James Thie) gives me a program what I do in a week or on race day so everything is organised.
What are your career highlights so far. Any really memorable events or races?
My career highlights are making my first Paralympics Games in London 2012 and another highlight is coming 4th in the world championships in 2017 which is my highest finish in the major championships.
How driven are you when it comes to a race? Drive and fighting spirit seems to be a trait amongst us.
I am always a fighter since I was born and I always believe in myself that nothing is impossible to achieve your dreams. Also follow your own path and be confident about yourself. Most important thing is to be happy and what ever your goals you want to achieve in life.
Do you or did you ever get angry at yourself when trying to perform certain tasks? Is there anything you do to help manage your anger?
When I was a kid i was angry certain words I can’t prounce which made me upset. I had a speech and therapy in primary school which made it a lot easier for me. But I can’t pronounce my R’s properly which is ignoring but I know like Johnathan Ross and Roy Hodgson can’t pronounce their R’s either.
When did you start to realise you were actually pretty damn good at running and how does it feel to win a race?
When I was 21 years old I believed I can make it as an top Paralympic athlete which I decided to take it more seriously with my training and my lifestyle which was best thing for me cause helped my dyspraxia a lot.
What are you interests outside of running?
Outside Athletics training my hobbies i love watching my local football team Cardiff City play, I go out for food or coffee with family or friends in my spare time. If I got spare time I love to travel either to chill or sightseeing to look at museums stuff.
Do you find you have to explain what Dyspraxia is to lots of people. We are hoping our website can really spread awareness.
I have to explain quite a lot to people with my dyspraxia. I started writing blogs about my lifestyle and Dyspraxia to let them aware of it.
The Paralympics got massive attention during London 2012. How proud were you to represent Team GB? How important is the Paralympic movement and that everyone no matter what disability or difference gets to compete?
London 2012 Paralympics Games is one of the proudest moments to represent my country. I not just representing my country but I am representing my Dyspraxia to help people to inspire them and achieve their dreams. Also I want them to believe in themselves they can do it.
Have you got a message for any adults or children out there with Dyspraxia?
My message for people with Dyspraxia is to dream big and never to be afraid what you love to do and every day is a challenge which make life more interesting.
Where do you keep your medals?
I keep my medals safe in my house. If I win a Paralympic medal I will keep it in a safe locked away so I wouldn’t lose it!
What is next for you? Any new goals – any events coming up?
In the next two years I want to make my 3rd Paralympics Games and after that I want to run a marathon for the Dyspraxia Foundation awareness after I’ve finished racing in Tokyo.