Inspirational stroke victim fights back from tragedies to win Great Yarmouth Special Olympians honour

Samantha Varney who has won a swimming trophy from the Special Olympians.Pictured with her uncle Joh

Samantha Varney who has won a swimming trophy from the Special Olympians.Pictured with her uncle John Hughes.Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass

A Gorleston mother-of-one who battled back from a devastating stroke to win a swimming cup has been hailed as an inspiration.

Samantha Varney, 46, of Stuart Close, could barely walk after she was taken ill in January 2012 - left paralysed down her right side and with speech difficulties.

But she defied the odds and amazed her friends and family with her strong resolve, training at the Marina Centre until she could swim more than 100m.

She has been awarded the Great Yarmouth and Waveney Special Olympian's chairperson's cup for her efforts.

But Samantha - who has faced adversity throughout her life - is modest about her achievements, and remains focused on improving.


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When her son Samuel was born 16 years ago, he was 10 weeks premature and she did not know if he would live or die.

He weighed less than 2lbs and spent weeks in intensive care at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge.

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While Samuel - who has special needs - pulled through, her partner David Lodge died days after the birth.

Her uncle John Hughes, 65, of Salisbury Road, Great Yarmouth, explained that Samantha is forever optimistic.

And she got into swimming so she could enjoy quality time with her son, who is also a member of the Special Olympians.

'She joined so they could have an activity together and also for her own wellbeing,' explained Mr Hughes. 'She loves swimming and she's astounded the people there with her efforts.

'They say she's climbed a mountain.'

Samantha is paralysed down her right side, has difficulty speaking and needs to use a caliper to walk.

She spent three months at the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH), but joined the Special Olympians last September to aid her recovery.

'She's very strong willed,' said Mr Hughes. 'She's not looking for glory, but has been pleased and surprised by the recognition.

'She's still optimistic and trying and hoping for more than people think she will achieve.'

He said the whole family was proud of Samantha, and praised the Special Olympians.

'We think they are a wonderful organisation and Samantha has benefited from being there,' he said. 'She's been pretty unlucky in more than one way, but she's a battler and she keeps going.'

Clare Winter, chairman of Great Yarmouth and Waveney Special Olympians, chose Samantha as the winner of the chairperson's cup

this year. Revealing why she stood out for her, Ms Winter said: 'She has so many factors to overcome and her determination to do that has been outstanding. Her motivation and the way she has worked in the pool from being hardly able to walk to being able to complete 15 to 25m lengths.

'She is doing a fantastic job and we're really proud of her achievements and feel she deserves recognition.'

Samantha swims in the masters group at the club, which is the category for people aged over 21 who can swim more than 100m.

Great Yarmouth and Waveney Special Olympians was founded in the 1980s, on the back of an American movement. They meet at the Marina Centre every Sundays from midday to 4pm.

If you are interested in joining, call 01493 302975 or visit www.greatyarmouthspecialolympians.cfsites.org

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