The parents of eight-year-old Mia Norman were so impressed by their daughter’s first ever visit to a Panathlon competition that they immediately vowed “never to let her be held back” again.

Mia was part of the Suffolk Otters team from Priory School in Bury St Edmunds who competed in Panathlon’s National U18 Deaf Swimming Final at the London 2012 Aquatics Centre on Tuesday (January 28).

As well as being hearing impaired, Mia has scoliosis (curvature of the spine) which in the past has made her parents, James and Sam Norman, understandably cautious about her taking part in physical and competitive sporting activities.

However, having witnessed Mia’s confident Panathlon debut at the iconic Olympic and Paralympic venue, James and Sam immediately vowed they would build up her swimming experience.

Dad James said: “As we were watching, we had a discussion up in the stands and decided we are definitely going to put her into swimming lessons. Today has really given us confidence that she can get on with it – and that she doesn’t need to be held back.

“We hope that Panathlon can now be a big thing in her life and that after today there will be many more. We are so impressed. For our daughter to be involved with something like this is quite incredible. It gives her a challenge and a whole new outlook.”

Mia had an operation on her spine last year which involved a rod being inserted into her back. Competing so ably in a national final in such a large and potentially intimidating venue was all the evidence mum Sam needed that her daughter should step up her involvement in swimming.

“It is just amazing,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see the confidence boost it has given her. It shows that just because you’ve got disabilities it doesn’t mean should ever be held back from anything. You don’t have to miss out on anything.

“We’ve decided we’re going to get her much more involved in swimming now because she clearly really enjoys it. I was a bit nervous about how she’d be, because she hasn’t done anything like this before, but this Panathlon event has been incredible. We hope now that Panathlon can be a strong point in her life.

“It’s so reassuring for us as parents. We weren’t expecting all this, we thought it would be just a little splash about! But what a wonderful place to be! It’s just lovely to be part of it and to see the teamwork and camaraderie is just wonderful.”

   Pentland Brands

St James's Place