When Special Olympics GB’s basketball Head Coach Jazz Owen (pictured right) told us immediately after the successful Gold Medal Final about one of her players, Niall Guite, we knew that we had to find out more about this athlete.
“Niall has put 100% effort into every game. In what turned out to be our final game against China, Niall went on court and put his body on the line to save two of his team mates from fouling out. His dedication has been faultless.”
Selfless and determined. Characteristics which have served Niall well over many years and steered him on a golden World Games experience. Niall is 20 and is a big Sheffield Wednesday supporter.
Niall's mum, Michelle Guite (pictured middle) takes up his son’s story.
“Niall was a very poorly little boy who was constantly in and out of the Children's Hospital in Sheffield.“He had Chronic Asthma and allergies which caused digestive problems, all of which meant that he found it difficult to walk very far, ate a very restricted diet and struggled to keep weight on.
“He was also diagnosed with global developmental delay and communication difficulties, which meant that he found it difficult to learn things, struggled to make himself understood and was frequently frustrated by this. As a consequence he had very poor muscle tone, difficulty breathing, rarely took part in any sporting activity and needed constant reassurance.
“His brothers were sports mad so Niall was exposed to exercise from an early age although he could never participate for long without being breathless. Medication didn't really control his asthma enough to allow him to exercise properly.
“All that changed when we found that he needed to be on a dairy free diet, following this it allowed him to be asthma free and improved his overall health and well being. He began to move around more and he started to go to Trampolining sessions. His muscle tone and stamina improved gradually over time and then a Basketball team started up in Sheffield.
“It took a long time to learn the basics and get to a standard where they could compete but he was selected to participate in the National Summer Games in Leicester 2009 and he was the proud winner of a Bronze medal.
“However, the greatest achievement was actually participating as he was very anxious and had initially refused his place.
“After much reassurance he agreed and when the games were over said that he would do it again. This to his family was the biggest hurdle and the best outcome for his growth and development as an individual, the medal was the icing on the cake.
“At the National Basketball Competition in Sheffield 2014, Niall Represented Yorkshire and Humberside and his team won a Silver medal, this was also the qualification needed to participate in the World Summer Games.
“He also spent three and a half years completing his Silver and Gold Duke of Edinburgh Challenges and gained a lot of confidence in the process. He is now considering completing another Duke of Edinburgh challenge for the Diamond Jubilee.
Niall, explaining his success in Los Angeles, said:
“I loved all the experience of the World Games, from the atmosphere in the City and meeting so many Police Officers, to the experience of being part of the team and the support of the coaches to the Games themselves. I missed them all a lot following my return, even though I did have a Gold Medal!”
“Special Olympics has changed my life by helping my confidence, making friends and it keeps me fit. I want to continue to compete and get better at my sport.
"I am extremely proud of being chosen to represent my country and Special Olympics Great Britain. It makes me feel really good about myself. I love football - watching and playing – and I support Sheffield Wednesday. I also like to spend time in the garden and grow soft fruit. I have an alpine garden as well.”
Niall now takes part in sport and exercise nearly every day of the week including Basketball, Football, Boxing fitness, personal training sessions and Trampolining.
His family are all very proud of his achievements, not least his brothers who are now having to work really hard to keep up with his level of fitness and strength. A very long way from the poorly little boy he was.
Niall has recently announced, following on from the World Games in Los Angeles, that as well as attending a Horticultural course at College he would like to train as a Coach in both Basketball and Football and maybe work in sport in the future.
The challenges this will bring him are, once again, significant but he appears undaunted. Perhaps something he has learned from being a Special Olympics athlete. Niall sees an obstacle and finds a way to overcome it.
Niall faces many challenges on a daily basis but sport allows him to express himself and stay physically and mentally positive. It offers him so many opportunities to reach his full potential.
Mum Michelle concludes:
“He is an amazing young man who has learned to set himself goals and I am sure will achieve them with his indomitable work ethic which would be a true Olympic legacy."