Diabetes can’t sink Cobargo's rising star

ALEXANDER Norris is a remarkable young man, just ask his doctors.

• Cobargo’s Alexander Norris with the zone age championship trophy he won just one week after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes recently.  Photo: Jody Collins

• Cobargo’s Alexander Norris with the zone age championship trophy he won just one week after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes recently. Photo: Jody Collins

Just one week after the life-changing diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, Alexander competed in, and won, the zone swimming championships. 

The win secures a hat-trick of zone titles for Alexander. 

“Alexander’s achievement is remarkable, especially given the enormous hurdle he has faced over the past week,” Cobargo swimming coach Jim Gustard said. 

Alexander competed across six events and finished on the podium for each of his races to see him secure the overall win. 

Proud mum Rhonda Ayliffe said she couldn’t be more proud of Alexander after his win despite the difficult road leading to his diagnosis. 

“It was really big thing, with diabetes it apparently comes on over many months,” Ayliffe said.

“You decline slowly, then rapidly and then fall off a cliff,” she said. 

“For me it was a very emotional day watching him do the zone championships.”

Managing Alexander’s insulin was difficult at first and Ayliffe said she was astounded by his determination to swim. 

“He has to be monitored around the clock and woken up every two hours.

“Even on the sleep deprivation angle, it’s hard for him to do stuff, so I was very proud to see him have a go at it, just have a go!”

Ayliffe said she was grateful to the community that had banded together after learning of Alexander’s illness. 

“Thank you to all the people in Cobargo who got behind him, encouraged him and cheered for him,” she said. 

“His coach actually took a day off to come and support him.”

Ayliffe said she was first alerted when Alexander’s swimming coach and herself noticed his energy.  

“He wasn’t his usual energetic and enthusiastic self in the pool,” she said. 

“This was right up until the school championships, he swum those with undiagnosed type 1 diabetes.”

Ayliffe said Alexander had been “laid up in hospital” for a week before the championships, but it was no deterrent for her son. 

Doctors at the Canberra Hospital told her the idea of Alexander competing “was almost ridiculous to consider doing it”.

“They’d never had anyone attempt it, to be diagnosed one week and then swim a really heavy duty championship the next week,” Ayliffe said. 

“He’d only started his insulin the week before and he was very unsteady.”

Doctors and support staff assisted Ayliffe in putting together a plan for the competition as they were still monitoring Alexander’s medication and treatment. 

“[Doctor] Tony Lafferty out of Canberra Hospital put a plan together.”

Meanwhile, the hospital’s paediatrics and diabetes educator Di Roberts said Alexander was “an inspiration”.

Ayliffe said since learning of Alexander’s success so quickly after his diagnosis, a number of medical and diabetes publications have been seeking to talk with him. 

“They want to talk with him to see how he did it,” she said. 

Ayliffe said Alexander had shown an incredible level of resilience to compete. 

“It’s damn difficult, but it can be done, it shows how important staying fit is.

Following his success at the zone championships, Alexander qualified for a number of events at the regional championships held in Dapto on Friday. 

Facing stiff competition from hundreds of swimmers across the southern region Alexander performed well and made the top 20 of the three races he took part in. 

Ayliffe said it was a great effort considering the level of competition. 

“That was a regional championship that included kids from Helensburg all the way to the border.

“The South Coast they call it, but it includes over the hills,” she said. 


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