Blyth para swimmer beats his personal best five times at North East Para Swimming Championships
Andrew Beharie, who has autism and is studying sports journalism at Sunderland University, won the medals in the 100m freestyle, 100m backstroke, 100m butterfly, 200m individual medley and 50m freestyle events.
He was introduced to swimming by his mum, Helen, at a young age after he was scared of the sea on a family holiday and it was obvious after a few lessons how much he enjoyed it, and how good he was.
Helen said: “He started lessons when he was three and by the time he was seven he was competing in galas. He didn’t compete in para events to begin with because we weren’t sure about his level of autism.”
Although Andrew didn’t win any gold medals at the championships, his mum said all swimmers are more interested in breaking their personal bests. She said: “I’m really proud of his progress, He’s obsessed with his PBs. His room is filled with trophies and medals but it’s all about seconds being shaved off his personal bests.”
Andrew is the captain of Sunderland University’s swimming team and Helen said he has taken the responsibility really well, and added: “It’s been really good for his confidence and his social skills. He’s moved into a flat, although he’s not 100 per cent independent, he’s still emotionally dependent on us and runs every decision past us.”
He trains every day at various clubs, including the university, Blyth Lifeguard and Swimming Club and in Durham with the North East squad.
“It’s such a routine sport so that has helped and he has lots of friends in the swimming clubs, most of whom are not para, it’s an environment where everyone can just be themselves,” Helen added.
“He’s like Mr Bean on land but in the water he’s like a fish, it’s his happy place.
“Swimming lessons were just intended as a way to save his life on the beach and ended up saving his life, I suppose.”