Paralympic Hopeful Hilmy Shawwal On The Importance Of Inclusive Activity
Hilmy Shawwal Has Been Helping LYG To Provide Inclusive Opportunities for Disabled young Londoners
Paralympic hopeful Hilmy Shawwal is one of the driving forces behind the LYG Virtual Inclusive Games, the latest virtual offer from the London Youth Games that is putting young disabled people at the heart of the competition.
“The LYG Virtual Inclusive Games is a really positive thing because not many disabled people feel included at the moment especially in the current environment with what we’re going through with the pandemic,” says Hilmy.
Activity Alliance’s latest Annual Disability and Activity Survey shows twice as many disabled people feel that the pandemic has greatly reduced their ability to take part in sport or physical activity compared to non-disabled people. It also shows that almost a quarter of disabled people believe they had not received enough information about how to be active during the pandemic, leading to a deterioration in physical and mental wellbeing.
“To be honest, the first lockdown did affect me mentally,” he says. “My mum was quite cautious because she knew I was high risk, so I wasn’t allowed out. Since then, I’ve been lucky. I’ve had a training set at home, which has really helped. Without exercise, I don’t know where I would be right now.
“I’ve been fortunate but there are lots of disabled people who are struggling. That’s why I’m really happy to be involved with this project. We want to use the LYG Virtual Inclusive Games to give young disabled people an opportunity to keep active during lockdown by setting inclusive challenges that can be adapted for different impairments and done at home.”
The LYG Virtual Inclusive Games will run for eight weeks, with three different challenges released each week. Whilst the competition is open to all young Londoners to participate, the challenges will all be set by young disabled people to raise awareness of the importance of disabled people remaining active and to celebrate their achievements.
Hilmy has worked with the LYG team to help develop challenges and the concept behind the Virtual Inclusive Games, continuing a long association with the Games, which first began when he competed for Ealing in 2009.
“Representing my borough was always one of the biggest things for me,” he said. “My first London Youth Games wearing the Ealing top was really special for me. I wasn’t expecting to win a medal at all and I got a silver that day. I surprised myself and it was a massive buzz. I told myself that if I keep coming here every year, who knows what will happen.”
Hilmy did keep coming and would go on to break the 100m and 200m records for wheelchair racing. The 200m record having previously been held by David Weir, one of Britain’s greatest Paralympic athletes of all time.
Having been inspired by David Weir’s heroics at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Hilmy was later spotted by the Weir Archer Academy at a British Athletics talent identification camp. Hilmy is currently club captain at the Weir Archer Academy and part of the Team GB development squad.
He now counts fellow LYG alumni David Weir as a friend and mentor, and is aiming to follow his lead by competing at the 2024 Paralympic Games.
“The Paralympics is definitely the aim,” he says. “Right now, I’m on the Team GB development squad. If we get to race this year, my aim is to make in on to the Futures Academy for next year, and then the Paralympics in 2024, that’s what I’m hoping for. My coach thinks realistically if I keep doing what I’m doing and keep progressing then anything is possible.”
Alongside David Weir, Hilmy is hugely grateful for the support of his parents and the positive impact they have had in helping get to where he is today.