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Paralympian shines at national swim titles -

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Paralympian shines at national swim titles

Reporter: Natasha Johnson

MAXINE McKEW: As always, the headlines out of the recent Australian swimming championships were
dominated by the stars - the Hacketts and the Klims - and that's fair enough. The competition was
fierce for places in the national team to compete against the world's best in Montreal later this
year. But there was one swimmer who didn't rate much media attention. despite claiming two gold
medals at last year's Athens games. One of Australia's top Paralympians, 20-year-old Daniel Bell,
has a remarkable story to tell about success in sport and in life. Natasha Johnson reports.

COMMENTATOR: The world record holder, Daniel Bell of Australia, swimming in lane 4.

GLENN McKEEMAN, CHRISTIAN COLLEGE GEELONG: You almost have to pinch yourself...

COMMENTATOR: Now, Daniel Bell coming through in the middle.

GLENN McKEEMAN: To see that happen is really a miracle.

LIZ BELL, MOTHER: I just can't believe that a boy that they gave no hope for, and I mean no hope,
and nothing, to now - it was a miracle.

COMMENTATOR: And there is a very proud Daniel Bell.

NATASHA JOHNSON: 'Miracle' is an overused word, but those who know Daniel Bell insist it is the
only way to describe his life's journey. The 20-year-old is one of Australia's top Paralympic
swimmers, but when he was a baby, no-one ever imagined this could possibly be his destiny.

LIZ BELL: They told me he had cerebral palsy, he was blind, and he also was diagnosed with brain
damage. He would probably be in a wheelchair and will probably be - absolutely be able to do
nothing all his life. He was less than his birth weight at six months old and he was still in the
foetal position at six months old, so he was a very sick boy.

NATASHA JOHNSON: That was how Liz Bell found Daniel in 1984 when she left her home in the coastal
Victorian town of Ocean Grove to live in Samoa. Her husband Rod had gone there for work and she
volunteered at a hospital where Daniel was being treated. His parents had disappeared, He
desperately needed someone to love him, and Liz Bell wasn't prepared to accept the doctor's

LIZ BELL: I didn't accept it because I saw that with a little bit of love, and a little bit of
attention, Daniel started to respond. We took him out to the sea every night and put him in the
water and let him use his muscles in the sea. I got attached to him as much as he got attached to
me, and now, look. Woo-hoo, I've still got him.

NATASHA JOHNSON: So at the age of 44, having already raised two children of her own, Liz Bell
adopted Daniel and brought him home to Ocean Grove and to every doctor she could find to treat his
cerebral palsy, visual impairment and behavioural problems. But there was one difficulty she
struggled to fix - the cruelty of other children.

GLENN McKEEMAN: He was easily led and some of the kids at other schools would set him up. The kids
had ridiculed him and put him down. He needed lots of TLC and lots of encouragement, yes.

REPORTER: So he was a pretty unhappy, angry kid?

GLENN McKEEMAN: Not angry. Certainly unhappy and very insecure.

LIZ BELL: I stayed with him for the first three years every day in his classroom because nobody
knew really how to handle Daniel.

DANIEL BELL: I probably found it difficult to accept the fact that I probably wasn't the same as
other kids. I used to take the bullying really seriously. I would just become emotional and just
give up.

NATASHA JOHNSON: It's the swimming sports at Christian College in Geelong and the young boy who was
bullied at other schools is now the college's local hero.

DANIEL BELL: Shake your champ's hand, mate. Bloody good effort, mate.

NATASHA JOHNSON: This school embraced Daniel Bell after years of misery elsewhere, and, as he
presented the winners' medals, former teachers remembered a day like this 10 years ago when he was
coaxed into the swimming pool for the first time.

DANIEL BELL: I was on the diving blocks, getting ready to go and I suppose it was make-or-break

GLENN McKEEMAN: Liz was walking down one side of the pool and I was walking down the other as he
swam, yelling encouragement for him to keep going.

LIZ BELL: He swam with one arm when he first started swimming. He couldn't use both arms.

GLENN McKEEMAN: Then stopping in the middle of the pool and turning around to look at where the
other kids were, as we were saying, "Just keep swimming! Keep swimming!"

LIZ BELL: We were both hysterical, screaming, and he took every single race that day and he took
every single race for every year he was in Christian College. He didn't miss out anything. So then
we knew that we had a swimmer on our hands.

DANIEL BELL: I felt really happy with myself because I felt like I had achieved something.

NATASHA JOHNSON: From schoolboy legend to national champion, Daniel Bell has won a swag of medals
and awards, including a gold in the relay and two individual silver medals at the Paralympics in
Athens, an Order of Australia and even a set of hero stamps. But perhaps his most cherished is the
2003 People's Choice Award, a swimmer's popularity contest, in which he beat Ian Thorpe and his
mentor Michael Klim.

REPORTER: I hear you had a bit of a message for Michael Klim.

LIZ BELL: He said, "Klimmy, don't worry, I voted for you, but obviously I'm the better man." And I
could have flattened him.

COACH: At the end of your stroke, I want you to turn your hand slightly that way and push through.

NATASHA JOHNSON: Daniel Bell trains with an able-bodied squad and competes with them at state
level. In the Athens Paralympics, he was ranked world No. 1 in the 100m butterfly but missed out on
the gold by a fraction of a second. Now he is chasing one in Beijing. While swimming has helped
Daniel Bell overcome his physical impairments, it's also given him confidence, friends and a

GLENN McKEEMAN: I think that there was a risk that Daniel would be lost and just be one of those
peoplE that disappears out of society altogether and now he's a legend in Geelong.

LIZ BELL: I knew he had fight and he fought and he is still fighting.

DANIEL BELL: I think the change that it's made to me is that you do have friends and it's good to
feel accepted.

MAXINE McKEW: The power of belief.