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Disability Gymnastics

NatashaCoatesGB Member Posts: 1 Listener

My name is Natasha Coates and I do gymnastics. To be more specific, I do disability gymnastics as I have a rare condition called Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS).

MCAS in my case causes a multitude of life-threatening symptoms and means that I no feeling from my elbows and knees down when exercising. Having been a gymnast from the age of 8 I had grown up in the sport, however when I developed my disability at the age of 18 I was no longer able to keep up with mainstream sport. Since switching to disability gymnastics in 2014 I have won 22 British titles, but more importantly I have made amazing friends, had fantastic opportunities and achieved things I was told my body would never be able to do!

Last summer my family and I moved 100 miles from where I had lived my entire life to be nearer my specialists in Nottingham. This meant leaving my gymnastics club and I was faced with having to find a new one. This was my first taste of trying to find an accessible leisure activity. Here’s what I did to find what I needed to be able to take part in the sport that I loved:

  • I was honest. I ended up creating a 3-page word document all about me, my disability and the adaptations I required. I think this may have scared a few people but I wanted to surround myself with people that understood and the only way we can get rid of the fear and stigma is to educate. So, my 3-page document became the base of that education.
  • Explain your normal. As I said above the word document helped because it showed what my normal was. For example, I can faint during exercise. Now to a non-disabled person fainting is a scary thing but for me it’s a part of my weekly life and I needed a plan in place so I didn’t end up in an ambulance every time just for a faint.
  • Shop around. If the first place you look isn’t right then keep looking. Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you aren’t human and you shouldn’t have to settle for less than you need.
  • Go with friends. If you’re like me and get nervous in new situations, arrange to go with a friend or family member to make the transition easier.

Remember, sport is for everyone! Try not to worry about taking or doing the right thing, even Paralympians were once beginners!

Do you take part in any sports, or are there any that you have been wanting to try? It would be great to hear what you think!


  • Topkitten
    Topkitten Member Posts: 1,285 Pioneering
    I think if some of the things I do and the movements I have to make were filmed it could be mistaken for gymnastics. Things like getting dressed and undressed, washing, showering and even using the toilet, lol!

    I think it is good to do activities if you can. Personally I used to love sports before I became ill even though, as I got worse, the sports became more sedentary. Somehow I always seemed to get the odd trophy for doing things such as football, 10 pin bowling, pool and darts. This last year I even won a trophy for playing Bridge.

    Well done for persevering and not giving in. I am sure there were some around you who urged you to stop. Just shows what can be achieved if you keep trying rather than assuming that being disabled means giving up.

    "I'm on the wrong side of heaven and the righteous side of hell" - from Wrong side of heaven by Five Finger Death Punch.
  • mossycow
    mossycow Member Posts: 487 Pioneering
    Great Post.... Always think I should do more with my body but I still feel I'm in that 'getting to know what my new normal is' phase...

    Fab post 
  • oldngrumpy
    oldngrumpy Member Posts: 176 Pioneering
    I would dearly, dearly, love to go back to the sport that I did when I was a child. Judo.
    I took it up because I was bullied, between the ages of 5 yrs to 9 yrs old.  
    I took up this ‘fine’ martial art and after about 9 months of doing this I was confident enough to use it in certain situations ;))  But I was still learning on the Judo mat.
    But because Judo is so brutal I cannot do it. 
    I’ve had a go at other martial arts (disability enabling me to) but nothing will ever come close to my Judo


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