AN inspirational boy who suffers from autism and used to have a phobia of water is now set to swim at next year’s Special Olympics.
Cameron Hunter, 14, had never set foot in a pool before he learned to swim at the age of 12.
He used to hate even having a shower and would never put his head underwater – but in a remarkable turnaround he is now aiming to represent Great Britain at the Paralympics.
Mum Julie, 34, of Stranraer, said: “He hated water, now I can’t get him out of it.
“It was really difficult when he was younger, he wouldn’t go for a shower.
“If it wasn’t for his coach he wouldn’t be in the water. He’s now got a passion for swimming.”
Cameron will represent Dumfries and Galloway at the Special Olympics in Sheffield next August.
Support worker Andrew McCandlish, 30, from the Quarriers charity, trained as a swimming coach specifically to help Cameron, who is learning to dive and tumble turn ahead of next year’s competition.
Andrew said: “It was about creating a game in the pool and not focusing on the water. At first he’d be out as long as he could stand.
“We played games and helped him progress by throwing a ball until he started to go further in.
“Four months in he started to split himself away from the games so he could swim.
“He would come over and do lengths. One of us would swim beside him and reassure him and make sure he was enjoying himself.
“Cameron is fantastic. After he spoke to his mum about being in the Paralympics, it’s become a fixation for him.”
The coach said the teenager was making “huge steps” towards his goal.
“He has this understanding of who he is,” said Andrew. “I know people my age who still don’t know who they are.
“Cameron knows he’s an Olympian.”
Julie, who is at college studying for a qualification in child care, said: “He just went for it, it wasn’t something we had thought about. There’s no stopping him.
“He’s at the local swimming club, he’s in the big group and he’s getting to know how to be competitive.”
Cameron said: “I’m very scared but I’m really looking forward to going.
“Andrew is actually quite good, he’s nice and very helpful.”
The youngster added with a laugh: “Sometimes Andrew’s a pain in the backside, but that’s his job … he’s my coach.”
Of the trip to Sheffield, he said: “It’s a big thing for me and it’s my first time going to England.”
Manchester United fan Cameron has even persuaded his mum to stop by Old Trafford on the trip down.
“I’m looking forward to going past Manchester so I can go past the stadium.”
Cameron trains with Stranraer Stingrays swimming club three times a week and swims with his school once a week.
But it hasn’t quite managed to replace his ultimate ambition – to be a professional footballer.
He said with a smile: “When I grow up I want to go to a football club.”