He didn’t like getting wet, so switched jobs to the site of Falkirk’s old pool - and now Craig Stirling is making a splash all while mopping them up!
The 35-year-old cleaner at The Howgate centre should be in a wheelchair according to doctors. Instead, he’s racking up medals, trophies and awards for his sporting swimming success.
Born with ‘ congenital talipes equinovarus’ he’s defied the predictions of Falkirk Royal Infirmary staff and is part of “the fastest relay team” in the British special Olympics.
“Basically what I have is severe club feet,” explained Craig, who grew up in Bo’ness and Camelon.
“I’ve had poles through my legs, tendons stretched as I’ve grown up and my legs have got bigger I even had a full length leg plaster cast - a stookie from my toes up to my thigh.
“Doctors said I would be in a wheelchair by the time I was 30 - but here I am, 35 and walking about, running, playing football, swimming the lot.
“When I told my surgeon, Dr Kerr, at Falkirk all the things I was involved in he said it was some achievement, and even when I’m working one of the nurses who treated me comes in and can’t believe how I’m doing.”
He’s a popular member of The Howgate’s cleaning team mopping up the spills in the shopping centre built on the site of the old baths where Olympic silver-medallist Bobby McGregor ‘The Falkirk Flyer’ once trained.
It was at school where Stirling first found a passion for swimming - and almost by accident.
“I was at Carrongrange and not interested in swimming but my pals dared me to try it and said they’d send me on a date with one of the girls if I didn’t, so I gave it a go and took up an interest.
“My PE teacher got me into my first gala and then I kept going. By S2 I was taking it seriously and the fastest in the school because the two older swimmers left and it was then I was called up to the 1997 games at Portsmouth, I’ve been at each one since and do all the strokes, 100m free, 50 back and butterfly and the 100 IM.
“We’re in the relay team and took the gold at Bath in the last one - we were finishing while West of Scotland were on their second swimmer.”
That helped Orion club member Craig land an award at the Falkirk Sports Council ceremony earlier this year for his achievements in the pool - but he admits, he doesn’t like getting wet!
“After school I worked on a training course as a landscape gardener, but I didn’t like being out in the pouring rain, so found a job inside at Asda in Newmarket Street, then I was at Mathesons and Callendar Square before The Howgate.
“People who come up to me don’t know I have a problem with my feet, and it’s not stopped me swimming or keeping involved in all the sports I do.
“Other people will have the same thing as me but I can tell them to keep going because I did –it’s not stopped me. They can do it too. ”