Paralympic champion Bethany Firth OBE advocates for greater awareness of the “hidden disabilities” (intellectual impairments) and the challenges they bring, drawing parallels to the film “50 First Dates” due to her memory issue. The twenty-seven years old S14 swimmer, Bethany faces difficulties in recalling some of her achievements in the pool due to her condition. In her interview with The Independent, Bethany talked about how intellectual impairment affects her day-to-day life.
“Some days I can remember stuff, some days I can’t,” said Bethany, likening her memory challenges to the film’s plot.
“It’s a bit like 50 First Dates – you don’t know what I am going to retain and what I’m not.”
Bethany acknowledges the difficulties it poses for her coach, Nelson Lindsay, who finds it challenging when she can’t recall previous drills.
“In everyday life, I struggle a bit with trust because I will see pictures of myself doing something and it is me but I can’t remember or I have no connection to that. There are just lots of little things that add up that people don’t notice because everyone just sees you as this normal person that can do everything,” she added, emphasizing the impact of intellectual impairment, which is invisible in nature on daily interactions.
The Paralympian, known for her stellar achievements in swimming, burst onto the scene at London 2012, securing gold in the 100m backstroke for Ireland. She continued her success, amassing multiple Paralympic golds and silvers across Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 after switching to represent Great Britain.
Despite facing injuries over the years, Bethany remains focused on personal bests rather than medals.
“I haven’t PB’d since 2016. I’ve always had an injury. Last year I broke my foot, the year before that I had shoulder injuries,” she shared, emphasizing her dedication to improving her performance.
Bethany Firth won two gold, one silver and one bronze at the Manchester 2023 recently and was extremely happy with her overall performance.
Bethany’s story serves as a powerful reminder that understanding and empathy are essential for those dealing with hidden disabilities. She calls for more awareness and acceptance, stating,
“Hidden disabilities are so common nowadays. It’s a bit like mental health – you can’t see what’s going on in someone’s life, and people are very good at hiding it.”
With the aim to raise awareness of intellectual impairments and autism, Virtus launched #AthleteFirst campaign in March this year. One of the primary objectives of this initiative is to bring visibility to the ‘invisible’ impairments and make them better known to the general public.
If you or someone you know has an intellectual impairment or autism and wishes to share the inspiring story, feel free to reach out to ‘firstname.lastname@example.org‘.