Daniel Johnsey says he is alive today because of swimming. He was 11 and waiting for a school bus when he was knocked down by a car travelling at speed.
He suffered a severe head injury, a broken pelvis and arm while his left foot was almost severed. In a coma for 10 days and in a ‘locked in’ state for five months, Daniel has since undergone 32 operations:
“Swimming is the only reason I am here today,” Daniel explains. “I had always enjoyed going to the pool, I was really sporty, and it meant I had strong lungs.”
And now 11 years later, he is giving back to the sport that saved him, giving up his free time to coach at Newport Seals Disability Swimming Club:
“I’ve been a swimmer for as long I can remember. Before my accident, I was on the verge of breaking into the Welsh squad.
“After my accident, the club – and of course my Mum and Dad – helped me get back on my feet.
“I then started helping out – just handing out equipment and helping to tidy up and it went from there. I love helping the kids and I enjoy seeing them get better and better.”
As well as his work at Newport Seals, Daniel has been working with Monmouthshire County Council’s Disability Sport officers helping young people step from a small disability specific gym class into the mainstream fitness suite at Caldicot Leisure Centre.
He has also coached at Active Gwent’s insport series event in Newport and volunteered over 50 hours at the Mongames summer programme in Caldicot. It was there he coached a young girl who hadn’t been able to perform a tumble turn in swim lessons. By the end of the summer, Daniel had worked his magic.
The coaching has given him a huge surge in confidence. In recognition of his contribution to the community, he even carried the Olympic torch in 2012. He now plans to try and find a paid role in fitness or swim coaching.
For his proud Mum, Sarah, who was told he would never walk again, his progress has been mind-blowing:
“The fact that he can even walk is a miracle and he has worked so hard to get to where he is today,” she explains. “He doesn’t even realise what he has achieved; he’s just so laid back.”