52. Liz Johnson; Paralympic Swimmer on Athens, Beijing, London 2012, Berlin, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and more - The Big Travel Podcast

Episode 52
January 15 , 2019

52. Liz Johnson; Paralympic Swimmer on Athens, Beijing, London 2012, Berlin, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and more

Paralympian Swimmer Liz Johnson often she says how fortunate she is. She IS of course fortunate in many ways, she’s won golds, silvers and bronzes all over the world, competed for her country and been able to turn her passion into her life. But it hasn’t been without its challenges and heartaches from being born with Cerebral Palsy to the sad loss of her mum. A truly inspirational conversation about the challenges and joys of travel with one of the UK’s most impressive athletes.

On this episode we cover:

How she started as a professional swimming

Being born with cerebral palsy ‘half of my body doesn’t work properly’

Not envisaging a career until age 8 or 9 (!)

Retiring at 30

How her mum’s support made her join the team

Not feeling she belonged in a disabled team

Playing football, rugby and cricket

Not being able to compete for the school

Her first national championships age 10

Being inspired to become a Paralympian

How her mum was her rock

Joining a real swimming club

How travel has been one of the best things she’s got from sport

Her first Paralympics in Athens in 2004

Travels to sporting competitions and Olympics in Athens, Beijing, London, Berlin, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa

Being excited yet disappointed about London getting the bid

Swimming encouraging her to travel in her downtime

Being the only students with disposable income at university

Travelling from Montreal to Toronto and Vancouver, Vietnam, Tokyo, Iceland to Rio de Janeiro

Impairments to travel meaning she has to plan ahead

Not being cut off to go back-packing

Being limited with footwear

How swimming never felt like work

Missing a connection in South Africa

Abseiling down Table Mountain in Cape Town

The Brazil World Championships

Meeting her partner who swims for Brazil

Exploring Rio and the North East of Brazil

Feeling lucky to have had the disability

How an able bodied person would find her impairment a struggle

How everyone has a struggle

Growing in confidence in being good at swimming

Being physically strong through swimming

How the systems in place don’t cater for people like her

‘I don’t think there’s any better education than travel’

How Britain is very well equipped for support in compared to other countries

Electric tin openers, left-handed scissors

How travel helps you evaluate what makes you happy

Travel being a theme in her life for swimming and pleasure

Being able to make a difference to other people

Her work as a patron to charity Dream Flight

Taking 192 seriously ill or disabled children to Orlando

How going on the same trip changed her way of seeing things

Always choosing something to eat that didn’t need cutting

Dream Flight having taken over 6000 children to Florida so far

How such trips change people’s lives

How the trip changed her own life

How her mum becoming ill with cancer made her feel very helpless

Her mum passing away when Liz was on the plane on the way to the Beijing Paralympics

How her mum was ‘her person’

Making the most out of the time she had left with her mum

Swimming in the Paralympics ten days after her mum passed away

Winning the Gold

How her mum’s death put racing into perspective and ‘revolutionised my training and my life’

How her hard work ultimately paid off
Swimming quicker in London 2012 than Beijing but only getting the bronze

How London 2012 made a huge difference to Paralympic sport

How Channel 4 did a great job in showcasing the Paralympics

The disability classification system

Lisa working on the Olympics and interviewing Oscar Pistorius

The London 2012 opening ceremony

Being the athlete that read the oath!

Her partner reading the oath at the games in Rio

Going to Swansea university business school

Going to India and Portugal for weddings

Experiencing India with the locals

Trying to meet local people for an authentic experience

Not just seeing the guide book stuff

Climbing Mount Fuji and visiting Tokyo

Falling over every 20 seconds on the way down Mount Fuji

Taking herself off to the loo to ‘give myself a slap around the face’

Inspiring other people to achieve things

Being blessed with having great people in her life

Struggling with abseiling with just one side of her body

‘More limbs would be better here’

Trying to make the most of what you’ve get

Retiring and now running an employment agency

Swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco Bay

How swimming is a lonely pursuit

Cycling from London to Paris

How life is physically harder now she’s not training as the impairment is exhausting

Needing more of an adaptable lifestyle

Not forgoing what everyone else has

Her recruitment co The Ability People

How people with disabilities are resourceful and brilliant problem solvers

The employment gap for disabled people

How Whitney Houston got the swimming team dancing around a hotel room in Durban