Inside November 2016 Paralympic Special

Swimming Times is the only magazine for British aquatics. Read about the latest issue below. Click on the buttons to reveal the story.

News round-up

  • Sally Minty-Gravett has underlined her legendary marathon swimming status by becoming the oldest woman to swim across the English Channel and back again. Sally, 59, from Jersey, swam from Dover to Calais and back, starting at 9am on August 29, reaching France at about midnight and landing back in Dover after 36 hours 26 minutes. Sally has now completed seven Channel crossings but this was her first two-way and raised £9,000 for the RNLI and Jersey Cheshire Home.
  • Great Britain won four matches out of six to achieve a respectable ninth place in the European Under 19 Women’s Water Polo Championships in the Netherlands. After going down 14-5 to title contenders Italy in their opening group match, the team recovered to thrash Bulgaria 27-6 the following day before sealing second place in the group with a dramatic 7-6 victory over Slovakia.
  • Following the article on him in the September Swimming Times, Mickey Helps began his English Channel attempt on Shakespeare Beach at 11:18am on August 24. It had by then turned into a double Channel swim and Mickey reached the French shore in 19 hours 9 minutes. He tried to swim back and came tantalisingly close to reaching his goal – literally passing out within 1,200 yards of the English coast after 41 hours 44 minutes having swum a total of 92.3 miles.

To read more of this month’s news stories, click here to buy the November issue of Swimming Times. 

Para pride

Britain’s Paralympic swimmers won 47 medals in Rio, surpassing both their London 2012 tally and UK Sport’s target for 2016 and placing them third in the table behind much bigger teams from China and the Ukraine.

GB’s para-swimming team smashed their medal target in Rio and helped the 260-plus British team return home with its largest haul of decorations since 1988. The 30-strong team of swimmers won 47 medals, beating the target UK Sport had set them of 35 to 45 and comfortably exceeding the 39 won in London. Finishing third in the swimming medal table behind China and Ukraine, almost all members of the team returned with a medal including both the oldest – Sascha Kindred at 38 years – and the youngest, Abby Kane, who was just 13.

There were plenty of standout performances but Bethany Firth deserves first mention. The 20-year-old dominated the S14 classification, winning three of the four events and finishing second in the other. She set new Paralympic records in the events she won – 100m backstroke, 200m freestyle and 200m IM – and even broke the record twice in one day in the backstroke.

Firth, who missed the IPC World Championships in Glasgow last year after fracturing her wrist, looked in control in each of her races and pushed Michelle Alonso Morales all the way to the touch in the 100m breaststroke, finishing just 0.27 seconds behind the Spanish swimmer.

She was determined to end the competition on a high, saving her most dominant performance to last as she won the medley by an eight-second margin.

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Creative teaching

Footballer-turned-swim teacher Harley Hicks is breaking down ethnic and other barriers to get more people in the pool.

When Harley Hicks was a young boy, his dream was to play football for Tottenham. After leaving school and home at 16, he took his first step on to the professional ladder with Dagenham and Redbridge, who were promoted to the Football League the same year. It seemed that the young right-back was on his way but when he needed a helping hand, a mentor, and someone to stand at his shoulder, there was no-one there.

So instead of emulating his Spurs hero, Ledley King, Harley had quit by the age of 18. He explains: ‘I was really focused on football but I was so ambitious – I was in the reserves at 17 and that was really quite good if I look at it now but at the time I was saying to the manager I wanted to be in the first team or else I was going to go somewhere else.

‘At that time I was living by myself so I didn’t have a lot of parental support that some of the others players my age were getting in terms of keeping their head on their shoulders or telling them to keep your head down, carry on and it will come. I ended up falling out with managers for different reasons and then ended up quitting a lot earlier than I should have done.’

Fast forward seven years and Harley is now an award-winning swimming teacher and an ASA tutor, working for GLL out of the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park, as well as at the Tritons Swim School in East London.

To read more click here to buy Swimming Times magazine. 

Swims of Merritt

Less than 18 months after major surgery to remove a tumour from her chest, Jenny Merritt bounced back to break a European record at the GB Masters and win gold, silver and bronze at the European Championships. Roger Guttridge traces her journey from operating theatre to London Aquatics Centre.

Many British swimmers won medals at the European Masters Championships in London and some have also broken European records in 2016. But there is probably only one who has done one or both after undergoing major surgery. Less than 18 months after surgeons cut through her sternum to remove a tumour from her chest, Jenny Merritt not only returned to the competition pool but to her winning and record-breaking ways.

It was in November 2014 that doctors investigating Jenny’s complaints about extreme tiredness discovered a tumour the size of an egg. They thought it was probably benign but couldn’t be sure. Either way, it had to come out, and soon, and she was invited to have an operation within days. Never one to fly prematurely off the block, Jenny delayed the op by a week – in order to keep an appointment with her hairdresser!

‘After six weeks I was back in the water, paddling around. I was warned I wasn’t to do anything too strenuous because I’m wired up inside and if I burst the wires I’m in trouble. So I got back to training very gradually…’

To read the full article click here to buy Swimming Times 

Doing the double


Six University of Nottingham swimmers defied big waves, sea-sickness, pitch darkness and the odds to become the first uni team to complete a two-way Channel crossing. Amanda Heath reports. 

First, a reminder about what Channel swimmers face. The season is from July to September, when the water has an average temperature of 14-18C. Only standard swimsuits are permitted, no wetsuits or even leg suits. The sea contains jellyfish that sting, seaweed and various other flotsam. The Channel is one of the busiest sea lanes in the world, with tankers, ferries and sea-cats to contend with. It is 21 miles across at its shortest point, but a swim crossing is never a straight line because of the tides – some of the most difficult in the world. More people have successfully climbed Mount Everest than have swum the English Channel and it’s considered one of the world’s hardest swims. Most swimmers take 10-20 hours to complete a single crossing, with the fastest being around seven hours and the longest over 27 hours. A two-way swim, even a relay, will, therefore, require swimming through the night and swimmers must attach glowsticks to costumes and hats to avoid getting lost. It goes without saying that all Channel swimmers are heavily reliant on their pilot and support crew for a successful crossing.

At 3.13pm on Monday June 27, a team of six swimmers (James Bull, Alex Thurston, Hayden Ball, Alex Kirtley, Mary Heartshorne and Josh Harridine), plus a reserve and support swimmer (Becky Dutfield) and two support crew (Kimberley Robinson and Hannah Scotney) left Dover to begin the momentous challenge of becoming the first university team in history to complete a two-way Channel swim and, in doing so, set a world record…


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Aspire Channel Swim

Every year, more than 6,000 people jump into their local pool for the Aspire Channel Swim, which raises money for people paralysed by spinal cord injuries. We meet four of these inspirational swimmers.

If anything’s going to inspire you to get into the pool to tone up or shift some weight, then these women could be your role models. Not fitness fanatics but mums and grandmas, people with serious illnesses and spinal cord problems and who aren’t spring chickens either!

Eleanor Reddington, 62, is a distance-of-the-Channel swimming veteran. Each year since 2003, the Methodist minister from Norfolk has ‘swum the Channel’ to fundraise, securing over £17,000 to help people with spinal cord injury.

So far she’s completed 12 ‘Channel swims’ totalling 264 miles – the equivalent of swimming  from Manchester to Brighton. On her own!

To read more click here to buy Swimming Times magazine. 

Making Waves

Britain’s Olympic swimmers showed resilience, patience and discipline aplenty on the way to a record medal haul in Rio, says swimming coach John Holden.  

You will have to forgive me for missing Adam Peaty’s 100m breaststroke heat when he broke the world record. I have to confess I was on another channel watching the cricket. I paid particular attention to analyst Simon Hughes’ comment when he explained that test match cricket is a real test of technique, mental resilience, discipline and patience. Switch these comments back over to the swimming, apply them and swimmers have a real chance of being the very best they can.

You can argue that these virtues are basic for any Olympian but to what extent was there evidence of these qualities on display so that our next generation of GB swimmers can develop over the next Olympiad and beyond?

In the final, Peaty demonstrated two additional qualities: confidence and aggression. On the last 25 metres, you knew that there was no-one going to catch him so Peaty decided to concentrate on his second race. His opponent, this time, was the clock – and he broke his own world record again to take gold…

To read the full article click here to buy Swimming Times.  

Honesty Box

Toby Sanderson, the 19-year-old swimming teacher, official, lifeguard and university student, reveals that he recently met Prince William and Prince Harry and saw the Queen through his membership of the ASA National Youth Forum.

If I could bring about change, I would… make swimming and swimming lessons free and accessible for people of all ages and abilities. Personally, I think being able to swim is one of the most important life skills, and I’m always shocked when I meet fully grown adults who aren’t able to keep their head above the water.

My heart was broken by… a certain Mexican restaurant I visited a few days ago. The main course was really nice, but they had run out of churros for dessert. I’d been looking forward to them all day and it almost brought a tear to my eye…

To read more click here to buy Swimming Times.  

Fast Lane

‘Amazing’ is the most common word spoken by our Olympic and Paralympic swimmers in the post-race interview – but who can blame them after achieving their dreams, asks Jimmy Rogers. Amazing!

It’s hard to find the right superlatives to describe our success at the Rio Olympics and Paralympics. The GB swim teams were simply brilliant, sensational, utterly fantastic.    

Don’t take my word for it. In poolside interviews on TV, our swimmers spoke for themselves. However, if I heard ‘amazing‘ once, it must have been 20 or 30 times and ‘I don’t believe it’ had me wondering how long it would be before Victor Meldrew issued a writ for copyright infringement.

I’m joking, of course. I mean, you could hardly blame the swimmer who had barely climbed out of the pool before a disconnected arm holding what resembled a microphone swept across our screens and was shoved under their nose. ‘Well done, how did your swim feel?’ What else might the answer have been?

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