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This month’s Swimming Times

Swimming Times is the official magazine of the ASA and British Swimming. Read about the latest issue below. Click on the buttons to reveal the story.

News Round-up

  • Four former British servicemen have become the first team of amputees to complete an English Channel relay swim. The quartet of Stephen White, Jamie Gillespie, Conrad Thorpe and Craig Howorth – all one-leg amputees – completed the 21-mile crossing in 12hr 14min. In doing so, they raised almost £3,300 for Blesma, the British Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association, which helps other injured service personnel living with limb loss.
  • Scores of disabled young people turned out to sample the London Aquatics Centre’s world class facilities during National Paralympic Day – and some could go on to be the Paralympic stars of the future. One youngster has already been identified as someone who should be fast-tracked on to the ASA’s disability talent programme. Others are being advised on clubs they may wish to join and how to move forward in the sport. Twenty disabled young people took part in a fun-filled Sports Fest Talent ID session – just one of three strands of activity during the day-long event at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
  • Lois Toulson split the Chinese divers to top a three-medal haul for Great Britain at the World Junior Diving Championships in Penza, Russia. Just two weeks before her 15th birthday, the City of Leeds diver moved from seventh to second with her final dive, which scored 73 points for a total of 352.90 in the B group platform. She pipped the second Chinese to the bronze by 1.85. Song Anxin of China took the gold with 394.10. In the same session, James Heatly and Sam Thornton won bronze in the boys’ A and B 3m synchro, despite an ankle injury sustained by Thornton just before the competition. They scored 305.88, missing silver by 1.92 points.

For more news you can click here to purchase the November 2014 issue of Swimming Times.

This Life

Just five years after Simone Benhayon, now 28, won the Kellogg’s ASA Swimtastic Swimming Teacher of the Year award, her aptly-named Creative Aquatics Swim School won the equivalent swim school title.

How did you set up your own swim school?

I always came to England [from her native Australia, where her dad is a former tennis coach] with the dream of setting up my own swim school. I decided to give it a go and it became a reality in April 2012.

I started with just myself and I was inundated with requests from parents in the local area to teach their kids. In a month, it went from nothing to a swim scheme that was completely booked out. After a month, I was teaching 150 swimmers every week.

That got me thinking that I had to get people to work with me and expand it further because if the demand was there, let’s go for it. It has taken off and expanded from there.

What is the ethos of your swimming school?

My approach is to get our families swimming and enjoying the water so we run a lot of different events – getting the parents in the pool with the children and getting them to have fun together.

We do a range of things. We threw an end-of-year party which involved the kids dressing up as superheroes and performing to their parents – making it fun and something they are going to remember forever.

I’m very focused on supporting the local community so we are running things throughout the year to raise money for local charities.

A big part of what I like to do is support the local community. If there are families in the area that can’t afford swimming lessons, I give them lessons for free. In a year, I have given over 4,000 free swimming lessons.

Are you working with schools as well?

Yes, I work with schools to support the kids to get their 25m National Curriculum standard by the end of key stage 2. We recently did a programme with a local school to push it along. Any kids who didn’t achieve the 25m were given one-to-one private lessons. That was great. We want everyone to be comfortable in the water, not just swimming 25m.

To read more about the Creative Aquatic Swim School you can click here to purchase a copy of the November 2014 issue of Swimming Times.

Honesty Box

Simon Harmer the former army medic who lost both legs in Afghanistan talks about the Invictus Games and reveals why he’d have Dave Grohl and J K Rowling among his dinner party guests

I wouldn’t be where I am now without... the Boy Scouts. Also the British Army. You can look at that in two ways. If I hadn’t been in the army, I wouldn’t have had my legs blown off. But equally it has given me the tools to become the person I am. I could have gone through life being a mediocre person but the army allows you to become more than mediocre.

Ironically, I was a medic in the Royal Army Medical Corps and that’s how I was injured in Afghanistan in 2009. We were going on a three-day patrol in Helmand province to clear Taliban out of some compounds. I had only gone 150 metres when I activated an IED (improvised explosive device). I was injured at my 13th year point and I have since had five years of surgery, rehabilitation and physio.

My ideal dinner party guests would be... Dave Grohl [Foo Fighters’ frontman and former Nirvana drummer]. His life story would be quite interesting. I know he would add an air of humour and I think it would be quite good fun having him there.

J K Rowling. It would be interesting to find out how she planned out her books and where she got the ideas from. There’s probably a lot more to her than just writing books on Harry Potter.

The biggest lesson life has taught me is... that possessions mean nothing and it’s the people that are around you that mean everything. Because you can replace pretty much everything you have got.

To read more from Simon you can click here to buy the November 2014 issue of Swimming Times. 

Quick Interview

Simon Ratcliffe, half of the chart-topping electronic dance music duo Basement Jaxx, tells Swimming Times about his family, the band’s new album and his love of open water swimming.

When you were on BBC Radio 2 recently, you talked about swimming the Solent from the mainland to the Isle of Wight. How did that come about?

We had a bit of a break [from their musical careers] in 2009. We moved to new houses and got our lives back together. We were having a meal with XL, the label we were signed to. Ben Beardsworth, one of the head A&R people there, said he had swum to the Bestival and that got my imagination going. I thought that was something I would like to do.

I had about nine months to train and I realised the swimming I had been doing in my local leisure centre was nothing. I really needed to increase the amount I was doing. So instead of going to an overheated 25m pool, I started going to Crystal Palace, which I loved. I found that I could swim the same number of lengths in a 50m pool as I had done in the 25m pool but of course I was doing twice the distance. There is a psychological thing there.

I live in South West London and very close to Tooting Bec Lido, which is 100 yards long, so I started doing 40 lengths of that, which almost doubled the distance again. I thought, ‘My God, I’m a big boy now.’ I invested in a wetsuit and there were lots of people doing similar things. There were people there who swim the Channel. I love the challenge of bracing yourself in the morning and taking the cold water. After a while, you get into a rhythm and feel you could go on forever.

So I was reasonably well prepared for the Bestival swim. Swimming in the sea is a completely different kettle of fish [to swimming in a pool]. It really throws you off your rhythm. But they give you a kayak [as support boat]. It’s all very organised.

Have you done any other swims?

After the Bestival, I did a few more swims. I went with a friend and did the Hellespont and Dardanelles swim in Turkey. That’s the one that Lord Byron did. It’s a shorter swim [than the Solent] but the currents are ferocious. It’s a kind of L-shape. You have to negotiate the currents. You swim into the current and let the current take you back down again. You swim almost a right angle. I was lucky with that because the weather was perfect. We had lots of jellyfish but they didn’t sting. They do make you go faster, though! That was a great experience.

To find out about more of Simon's open water swimming feats click here to buy the November 2014 issue of Swimming Times. 

Summer Breeze 

GB internationals were out in force at the British Gas ASA Open Water Championships at Rother Valley, near Sheffield.

Youth Champs

Caleb Hughes and Ellena Jones won the 17-18yrs 3km titles with impressive performances.

Hatfield’s British international Hughes, who won 7.5k silver at last year’s European Junior Open Water Championships, took the race out and couldn’t be caught, securing his victory in 31min 58.02sec.

And the 18-year-old admitted the race was the perfect preparation for the subsequent 10k at the European Championships, where he made his debut and came 24th.

‘There wasn’t really much tactics for that. It was just about getting some racing in,’ he said.

‘We’ve just come back from a training camp in Loughborough and I haven’t been tapered for this at all so it was more just to see what I can do without any rest.”

To dive in to the rest of this article by you can click here to buy the November 2014 issue of Swimming Times

100 years and counting 

Swimmers and water polo players from Kettering ASC marked the Northamptonshire club’s centenary by revisiting the lake where their forebears swam and played.

The Kettering Amateur Swimming Club (KASC) marked its 100th anniversary by revisiting the lake at Wicksteed Park for a celebration swim and water polo match. The swimmers gathered at the recently renovated lake on a glorious evening in July to revisit the experience that original members of the club had of swimming there.

This time, more than 40 members past and present took to the beautifully warm lake for laps of a 200m course followed by a mainly light-hearted (but occasionally quite serious) water polo match. A large crowd looked on eagerly from the newly built pontoon, enjoying the evening sunshine.

One particularly proud swimmer and water polo player was Roger Patrick, chairman of KASC Water Polo and the man behind the whole event. Roger was also able to recreate an historic photo from the Wicksteed Park archives showing his father, one of the early members, and others from the club ready to dive into the lake in the 1920s.
Roger said: ‘It just seemed right to celebrate the centenary of the club with a swim in the lake and a game of water polo, just as Dad and his friends did all those years ago. It was lovely to see so many people here and Dad would have been so proud that we are keeping up the long-held traditions and helping grow the club for the benefit of current and future generations of swimmers.’

You can read the rest of this article by purchasing the November 2014 issue of Swimming Times by clicking here.  

We too can be heroes 

Jim Boucher gets a hero’s welcome after completing the 25k Toroneos Gulf marathon swim in Greece.

Have you ever visualised winning or finishing in style? Imagined you are approaching the finish with crowds on their feet, cheering you all the way? Do you watch Chariots of Fire and hanker for that kind of adulation? If you can answer ‘yes’ to any of the above, then I’m going to describe just the event for you where, for once, you don’t line up at a small table and sign for your medal, but are feted as heroes, before, during and after the swim.

The catch is that this swim is a marathon swim, in the land where the term ‘marathon’ originated, run by a nation, in its day, a cornerstone of the ancient world; where swimmers are ‘athletes’, the country is Greece and the swim is the 44th running of the crossing from Kallithea to Toroneos.

…I swam until the water was about a metre deep and raised my arms to the crowd on the beach and the pier. The tough olive leaves on my sunburnt and chaffed neck didn’t bother me as the two garland- bearers planted a kiss on each cheek and embraced me. Yes, this could catch on in the national masters champs!

To read more about Jim's heroes welcome you can click here to purchase the November 2014 issue of Swimming Times.

Master Blogger

Verity Dobbie finds herself in trouble in a backstroke turn and in a tangle with her nationals entry. 

After the excitement of Montreal, I faced the ordeal of a family holiday in Lanzarote and opportunity to have a mini swimming binge – and after 66,000 metres of swimming, I returned in need of a proper holiday.

Instead, that first Sunday morning back found me getting up at silly o clock (it was still dark!) to drive to Kielder reservoir. This was because for some reason I had thought it would be a good idea to swim the Kielder 10k.

But what a fabulous morning it was. Not a cloud in the sky, not a breath of wind, not a ripple on the reservoir – it was simply glorious. I set off in the first wave, and we headed towards a gentle mist rising off the surface on the other bank. The stillness of the morning and the tranquility of the scenery was just fabulous.

To read more about what Verity has been up to click here to buy the November 2014 issue of Swimming Times


Sisters Jenny Crowell and Sarah Hodge were among almost 2,000 swimmers who took the plunge for the 24th British Heart Foundation Bournemouth Pier to Pier Swim – all united by the common cause of beating heart disease.

Swimmers of all ages and abilities took to the sea for the 1.4 mile swim from Bournemouth Pier to Boscombe Pier to raise money for the British Heart Foundation (BHF). They came from right across the country to compete and were welcomed by many participating South Coast swimming clubs, including the nearby Branksome Chine Surf Lifesaving Club.

The event began almost 25 years ago as a local fundraising event organised by a BHF volunteer with only a handful of people involved. But it has grown significantly over the years to become a landmark summer swim on the South Coast.

Among the competitive swimmers and team efforts were many individual swimmers spurred on to take part for very poignant reasons. Sisters Jenny Crowell and Sarah Hodge were inspired to take up the challenge in memory of their father Michael Crowell after losing him to a heart condition shortly before Christmas 2013. The sisters felt that after a childhood filled with happy memories playing on the beaches of Devon and Cornwall, where they grew up, the swim was the ultimate tribute to his memory.

The swim was great but definitely much tougher in the sea than training in the pool,’ agreed Sarah. ‘It was a good experience and when Jen and I crossed the finish line together, I did feel a great sense of achievement and our teeshirts were there to pay tribute to our wonderful dad and to show people our motivation for doing the swim. It also felt like they helped us to feel more like Dad was there with us too.’

To read more about the Bournemouth Pier to Pier you can click here to buy a copy of the November 2014 Swimming Times.


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