Destiny calls for Watkin
23rd September 2011 - The Daily Mail
Win or lose at the Paralympics next summer, world champion swimmer Louise Watkin has another life-changing landmark coming up in 2012.
It is hard to detect through her perfect English but she hails from Stockholm and, despite living in this country for 15 years, has yet to gain British citizenship.
I was always racing again able-bodied swimmers when I was younger. I was beating them. When I was about 10, I was spotted and moved through the structure.
This is not because she is reluctant to commit to the nation in whose colours she swims, but she simply because she cannot fulfil the Home Office criteria as long as training and competition involves regular travel.
The gold-haired Louise came over from Sweden at the age of four. Her parents split, her father going to Japan and her mum settling in Surrey.
"I’ve lived here long enough to qualify,’ says the 19-year-old. "I’d like to do it but you have to go six or 12 months without leaving the country. Otherwise, I’d have done it already.
"I spoke no English when I arrived. My mum spoke some. I had a special tutor to teach me over and above my normal lessons. It took me time to catch up before I could learn what everybody else was learning.
"Now I can understand Swedish, but it is difficult to join in a conversation.
Now Sandra works at the Japanese Embassy in Sweden, while Louise is contemplating multiple medals in the pool.
"I never realised that I had one hand," she says. "It’s the way I was born. Nobody knows why. It’s not hereditary. But because this is the way I have always been, I just learned to do all the things that other people did with two hands, with one hand.
"I was always racing against able-bodied swimmers when I was younger. I was beating them. When I was about 10, I was spotted and moved through the structure."