A BASINGSTOKE man who has achieved swimming success has won again – this time, a Diabetes UK medal for living with the condition for 50 years.

Mark Straw, who has type 1 diabetes, has raced for his Basingstoke Bluefins swimming club in recent years and competed in the Masters European Swimming Championships in Slovenia.

Mark was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was just eleven. But that hasn’t stopped him from achieving his dreams in the swimming pool. As well as a competitive swimmer, Mark is also a keen rider. Last year, he completed two bike tours – one in Germany and the other in Wales.

The Alan Nabarro medal is given by Diabetes UK in recognition of the courage and perseverance in handling the condition.

Mark, a retired bank manager, said: “Receiving my medal was a complete surprise. I must admit I was very proud to receive it. There have been many improvements in treatment for people with type 1 over the years and I’m very pleased to reach this milestone and still lead an active and healthy life. Lockdown has been hard. I really missed the pool – especially the smell of the chlorine! At the start of lockdown, my emotional health did deteriorate with the huge change it made to my active lifestyle. However, I contacted my swim coach who is a great motivator and he gave me ideas and positive advice. Keeping up my daily activity levels has been important – whether it’s riding the bike or walking the dogs, But the place I still miss most is the pool.”

Mark has also taken part in Diabetes UK’s local peer support sessions during lockdown.

Mark said: “These sessions run by the charity really helped me. Whilst I have a large group of friends, none of them have type 1 diabetes. The group is great in that it’s a mixture of ages, all sharing ideas and experiences.”

There are an estimated 4.8 million people living with diabetes in the UK. Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose in the blood because the body cannot use it properly. If not managed well, both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can lead to devastating complications, including sight loss, amputation, kidney failure and stroke. With the right treatment and support people living with diabetes can lead a long and healthy life.

Jill Steaton, regional manager in the south east at Diabetes UK, said: “Mark is an inspiration, and has really shown how taking control of your diabetes can lead to a healthy life. Diabetes is a serious and complex condition. With the right care throughout their lives people like Mark can lead very active lives and manage the condition well.”

The Diabetes UK South East team will be running peer support sessions for people with type 2 diabetes in the new year. Please email our regional engagement manager Caroline.walker@diabetes.org.uk for further information.

Photo: Mark with his medal