Claire Fitzpatrick – An Athlete’s Journey
Hi, my name is Claire Fitzpatrick.
When I was at Abercorn School, I played football for my school team, which I really enjoyed. My teacher, Mr Kerr, suggested I joined the Special Olympics football team which meet up on a Tuesday night at Firhill Sports Complex. That was in 2003.
My first National Summer Games were in Glasgow in 2005 where my team won a silver medal.
I was picked to be part of the Special Olympics Great Britain team for the World Games held in Shanghai in October 2007, but I had a real problem – I was terrified of flying.
With the BBC filming me for a documentary as a run up to the Games, two of my friends from the church came with me on a return flight to London. The crew were wonderful and took the time to answer all my questions, and I managed back to Glasgow in one piece!
My mum and my boyfriend John were at the airport to welcome me back. On landing, John proposed to me which I thought was the best thing that ever happened to me, and it gave me a big boost to try my best to represent my country.
The flight to Shanghai went well, and both John and I won gold medals with our football teams.
In 2009 I won another gold medal with my team at the Special Olympics National Summer Games in Leicester, and was lucky enough to represent Great Britain again at the World Games in Athens 2011, where we came home with a silver medal.
In 2013, John and I got married and we are both doing well and both have good jobs.
My team have been part of a football league for a few years, and I became a player/coach in 2017. In my first year in charge, we won our league.
The next Special Olympics National Summer Games are being held in Liverpool in 2021, and I feel privileged to have been appointed Head Coach for the football team. I look forward to taking on this role and the challenges it will give me.
Being part of the football team has given me more confidence and independence. If I hadn’t been chosen to go to Shanghai, I probably would not have had the courage to fly. John and I are now able to have great holidays abroad.