Dersingham pensioner defies illness to strike gold

Mike Kinnear is pictured with his medal and with Nurse AliRae Bunkle, left, and Stacy Metcalfe, right.
Mike Kinnear is pictured with his medal and with Nurse AliRae Bunkle, left, and Stacy Metcalfe, right.

A Dersingham pensioner has put a recent diagnosis of diabetes behind him to win a European Championships sailing crown.

Mike Kinnear, 73, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in November last year and has been helped to manage his condition by the team of nurses and dietitians at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

He competed at the Laser Masters Championships at Fousenant in Brittany and brought home the Great Grandmasters medal earlier in June.

Kinnear, who had a new aortic valve fitted in August last year, said: “I was very proud and delighted to win the title and medal.

“I don’t think it would have been possible without the support and encouragement of the diabetes nurses and dietitians.

“I certainly did not want diabetes to stop me from any of my sporting activities and sailing is a big part of my life.

“Diabetes is also now part of my life and it is not going to disappear, but now at least I am able to control it.

“At the start of the competition, we had challenging conditions thanks to the wind which resulted in a number of us having poor results in the first few races, but things improved for me as the contest went on.”

The pensioner first began sailing more than 50 years ago after being asked to crew for his brother-in-law and then caught the bug. He now sails at Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire.

Preferring to sail singlehanded in a Laser boat presented challenges for his condition as he may not have been aware if his blood sugar drops to dangerous levels due to adrenaline.

Ahead of the competition, Kinnear worked with diabetes nurse AliRae Bunkle and dietitian Stacy Metcalfe on how to manage his condition through careful matching of his intake of carbohydrates with insulin and monitoring his blood glucose levels as he expended significant amounts of energy throughout each race.

Modern technology in the form of the ‘Freestyle Libre’ Glucose continuous monitoring device proved to be instrumental in allowing him to know his blood glucose level at any time during racing.

A generous supply of jelly babies and energy gels was also an essential requirement onboard to top-up his Glucose levels as they inevitably fell during each race.

The hospital’s diabetes team hope Kinnear’s success will inspire other people with diabetes to take regular exercise.