Special Olympics: Main medal hopes at National Summer Games

Special Olympic gymnast Hannah Westerman

A year has passed since London was transformed by the Olympic and Paralympic Games - and the Paralympics in particular had a profound effect on attitudes towards disabled people.

The Special Olympicsexternal-link are hoping to have a similar impact when Bath hosts the 9th GB National Summer Games event from 28 August to 1 September.

Almost 1.2 million people in Great Britain live with an intellectual disability - and one in three of them suffer from obesity. With such serious obesity levels it is more important than ever that access to sports training and competition is available to all.

Special Olympics GBexternal-link provide year-round training and athletics competitions that have been proven to enhance quality of life by raising self-esteem, widening social networks and lowering stress levels through the power of sport.

Building on the success of London 2012, this year's Special Olympics GB National Summer Games are set to be the biggest yet. Karen Wallin, Special Olympics GB chief executive, said: "Firmly established as a member of the Olympic familyexternal-link, we're excited to see people getting behind Special Olympics GB and hope to build on the huge successes of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

"This year's Summer Games is set to be our best yet, centred at the University of Bath's high performance facilities,external-link with 600 coaches, 120 sports officials and over 500 event volunteers heading to Bath and Bristol - as well as more than 1,700 athletes."

Get Inspired takes a look at some of the athletes with medal aspirations.

Hannah Westerman - Gymnast

After first attending the Falcon Spartak Gymnastics Club aged six, Westerman was hooked on the sport. Now 27, she has been competing since the age of 12 and trains between 15 and 17 hours a week.

A visually impaired athlete with learning difficulties, Westerman is a nine-time British rhythmic gymnastic champion and says she was inspired to push herself even harder by the Olympics and Paralympics held in London in 2012.

Gary Jones - long distance runner

Born with severe intellectual disabilities including a speech impairment, Jones started running with Special Olympics Great Britain at the age of 16 and says running has helped him combat the issues he had with communication.

"The running gave me an outlet for my anger and frustrations at not always being able to communicate what I wanted to. It also gave me an outlet for all my excess energy as I channelled this into my running," he said.

Jones made his Special Olympics debut in Minnesota in 1991 - and at the last Special Olympics National Summer Games in Leicester in 2011 he won three bronze medals.

He regularly competes in marathons, including the London Marathon, the Great North Run and the Great South Run.

Charlotte Cox - sprinter

Cox is a rising star of the Special Olympics - she won two silver medals at the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens and in 2009 was named BBC Look East Disability Sports Performer of the Year.

In 2010 she was named sprinter of the year and Living Sport Disability Sports Performer of the Year in both 2009 and 2010.

Cox also participates in International Association of Athletes with Down Syndrome competitions and is the world-record holder for the 100m, 200m 400m and long jump.

Speaking to BBC Sport ahead of the Athens games in 2011, Cox said: "Athletics has been great for keeping fit, helping me to make new friends and giving me the chance to travel."

Richard Murphy - athletics and swimming

Murphy made his Special Olympics Great Britain debut in 1999 at the age of 11 when he competed on the track and in the pool.

At Athens 2011 he had one of the more impressive medal hauls, winning two golds and one silver for GB in the 100m, 200m, and 4x400m relay.

He also displayed his talent in the pool by earning one gold, one silver and one bronze at the 2011 Special Olympics GB National Swimming Competition.

He is one of the favourites to win multiple medals at this years games.

"Joining Special Olympics is one of the best things I have ever done," Murphy said.

"It changed my life completely in that it has made me more confident in myself, helped me in my training to achieve all the successes I have had, and to have the confidence in myself that I now have."

Mary Nolan - artistic gymnastics and swimming

Nolan has competed at the Special Olympics Great Britain National Summer Games in Cardiff in 2001, Glasgow in 2005 and Leicester in 2009.

In 2011, she represented Great Britain at the Special Olympics World Games in Athens, winning one gold and three silver medals.

Judy Burdass, secretary of Special Olympics Yorkshire & Humberside, said: "In her spare time, Mary has now started playing football - and thoroughly enjoys it! Mary's multi talent in three very different sports has given her a wonderful list of achievements.

"Mary is a perfect example of what people with a learning disability can achieve in the world of sport, through Special Olympics. Not only that, Special Olympics has given Mary many opportunities to show her ability, helped her make some good friends and given her some great experiences."

The Special Olympic Games GB 2013 National Summer Games take place in Bath from 28 August to 1 September 2013. For more information visit the official websiteexternal-link.

If you want to get involved with disability sport take a look at our Get Inspired guide to disability sport.