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Gareth Canning

Gareth Canning

Cerebral Palsy footballer & London 2012 Paralympic Torchbearer who gets a buzz out of defying the odds to live dreams

Being affected by Cerebral Palsy from birth has never stopped Gareth from achieving on a regular basis. With the correct levels of support through school Gareth was able to obtain strong GCSEs and A Levels. These enabled the opportunity to leave his home city of Plymouth in September 2005 to move to Kingston-upon-Thames to successfully study Accounting & Finance at university, whilst also learning to live an independent adult life.

After some struggle with finding employment, Gareth gained a role in the Customer Services department at Chessington World of Adventures Resort in May 2009. After 2 successful seasons a decision was made to move to the Retail department to acquire a broader range of experience with the hope of gaining promotion to a supervisor role. A great deal of experience was gained during 3 seasons of working within a commercial environment. Gareth’s experience, reputation and ability afforded him the role of Departmental Representative in the theme park’s Employment Representative Scheme for 2 seasons. In June 2014 a permanent role at Waitrose in Hersham was secured in the Customer Services section. Within a year a place on the Team Leader course was granted and Gareth is now a recognised supervisor with positive prospects of advancing into management.

As a child Gareth's dream was to be a professional footballer, but being affected by a physical disability meant that dream would not be lived. However, Gareth's love for football simply grew stronger and stronger. In September 2003 Gareth joined Plymouth Argyle Disability before joining Chelsea Community upon moving to Kingston. After battling back from a knee operation Gareth made his debut for Chelsea in March 2006 and has now played over 450 games for the club, wearing the Captain's armband on many occasions as well as enjoying opportunities to travel abroad to represent the club. Through hard work on and off the pitch Gareth has played at the level below England since 2010 as a defender, and is highly regarded by teammates and coaches. What Gareth lacks in pace and technical footwork tricks is more than compensated by superb positioning, physical presence, determination and vocal leadership.

In recognition of Gareth's achievements through education, work and football whilst dealing with the effects of Cerebral Palsy a nomination was submitted and granted to be a Paralympic Torchbearer in the lead up to the London 2012 Games.

With a positive outlook on life combined with an inability to give up when faced with adversity Gareth is often described as an inspiration when all he ever tries to do is to progress through life with a smile.

Testimonials from Teachers

"Being pulled around a bit to speak to different classes and assemblies is not easy but you were amazing so thanks so much on behalf of Sussex FA."

– Clare Nichols, Football Development Officer (Women & Girls / Disability)

"Gareth kindly spoke at the end of our Key Stage 1 assembly and was truly inspirational - a couple of our year 1 children were moved to tears when he spoke of never giving up and working to reach whatever you want to be!"

– Morag Bacon, Teacher, Brunswick Primary School Brighton

"Gareth has showcased his fantastic attitude self-sufficiency independence and winning mentality when completing his University Degree. Leading by example he has demonstrated the same strength of character & commitment in his sporting life. Combining outstanding individual talent with a team ethic he plays & trains at a consistently high level passing on experience and knowledge to other members of the team."

– Paralympic Torchbearer nomination submitted by Pam Chandler, Sussex Disability League Secretary​

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