CHRISTMAS came early for a brave St Austell schoolboy with a rare hereditary condition when he met a Paralympian swimming star.
Rocco John Phillips, who was born with haemophilia, was whisked up to London to meet swimming sensation and London 2012 athlete Jack Bridge, who also lives with the genetic bleeding disorder.
The sports-mad 11-year-old joined 23 other boys, who also have haemophilia, after being nominated by his nurse.
Rocco, who lives with his mum Jo Chippett, dad Graeme, and younger sister Tilly, 8, at Retallick Meadows, is "incredibly brave", said his mum.
This summer, after a series of bleeds, the Bishop Bronescombe School pupil spent several weeks in a wheelchair.
However, his mum Jo, 33, said Rocco has not let his condition stop him living the life he loves.
Jo said: "My dad had it and I am a carrier so there was a 50/50 chance Rocco would too.
"He was tested when he was born and it was confirmed, it was really hard to hear but we were ready and you learn to deal with it as it happens.
"Rocco is amazing. He does his own treatment, which involves using a needle daily – I think for a child of his age he is incredibly brave. He is a typical boy and very gung-ho and it can be hard to rein him in at times."
Haemophilia is an uncommon disorder that only affects men. It prevents the blood clotting properly and can include prolonged, excessive blood loss as well as internal bleeding in the joints, which may eventually become damaged.
Meeting Jack, who has scooped six British swimming records despite his illness, left Rocco a bit "starstruck", said Jo.
"Jack was brilliant with the children. They played water polo and to meet someone who also has bleeds and is fit and strong has inspired Rocco to take part in swimming galas and competitions."
Rocco, already a keen swimmer, has joined the local swimming club at Polkyth and has already gained bronze, silver and gold in the rookie lifeguard award.
"It was a really fantastic experience for Rocco to meet Jack and other boys with haemophilia because it is such a rare condition, which many people don't understand. It's nice for him to know he is not on his own. It really did feel like Christmas had come early," added his mum.
The boys were given swimming coaching and physiotherapy advice during their day at the Buddy Award Swimming Academy.