Special Olympics

Competitor Daniel McGauley

by Kitty Burroughs 

I already had a passion for powerlifting when I got the chance to start coaching Dan. I’ve met some lifters who show enthusiasm for the sport, but he surpasses all of them. Dan’s mum Judith and I continue to fight for all Special Needs lifters to have the right to compete and be treated the same as all regular lifters, and we’re pleased to say that access is improving.

He has had the opportunity to lift internationally in two Open Worlds and Commonwealths, and always brings back the bling and is a credit to Team GB. Working with lifters with Special Needs is incredibly rewarding. It’s important to remember that along with some learning difficulties some participants may also have complicated medical problems that you can’t see. Daniel is almost deaf and has visual problems and autism. He has had open heart surgery and overcome enormous medical complications. Initially he couldn’t even walk on the treadmill and was five stone heavier!

Daniel, like many with learning difficulties, needs a routine and lots of visual cues. We use signals with EVERY lift (even just the bar) and we have printed red and white lights which he gets used to seeing with every lift too. We say the same cues every time he lifts, and this helps him set up well and remember the technique. Daniel trains powerlifting four times per week and any deviation to his routine can cause him upset. We are excited at the opportunities that Dan is receiving to compete. He has recently taken advantage of the opportunity to lift in the Men’s All England and the British Equipped, alongside all the regular mainstream lifters, for international selection. His performance at the British Equipped at the weekend was a testament to his consistent hard work and he loves his wraps and suits.

Coaching, training with and accepting lifters with Special Needs just takes a bit of extra patience and a willingness to be inclusive. I would encourage all clubs and lifters to welcome Special Needs lifters into their sessions. I get just as much reward out of training Daniel as he does.

Well done Daniel for another successful competition.