Pepper ready to realise Paralympic dream

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BRITISH GAS SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS 2012

Venue:
Aquatic Centre, London Olympic Park
Date:
3-10 March
Coverage:
Live on BBC red button & BBC Sport website from 1825 GMT, 3-9 March; Live on BBC One from 1300-1400, 10 March; Live on 5 live sports extra from 1830, 3-10 March
Dan Pepper has been a world champion since he was 14 years old. Photo: SWpix.com

At the age of 23, Dan Pepper is preparing for the most important swimming trials of his life. A place at the Paralympics is up for grabs.

Both Paralympic and Olympic hopefuls will head to the Aquatic Centre in London’s Olympic Park for the British trials from Saturday, knowing it is make-or-break time.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it 24/7,” he says before a training session in Manchester. “It’s just the ultimate dream.”

It’s a dream which had threatened never to become reality.

Pepper is a four-time European and double world champion in the 100m breaststroke and 200m freestyle, but as an athlete with a learning disability – or intellectual disability (ID) as it’s known internationally – he is also a victim of the Paralympics’ most infamous scandal.

At the Sydney Games in 2000, the Spanish team won gold in basketball’s ID class. At a Games with so many positive stories, it seemed just another cause for celebration – until one of sport’s most jaw-dropping revelations.