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Award winner Alice Tai hopes her success will be inspiration to others

Alice Tai hopes her success will inspire others to take up the sport as she became the first para-swimmer to be named Athlete of the Year at the British Swimming Awards.

She also landed the Para-swimmer of the Year accolade after winning a magnificent seven gold medals at the World Para-swimming Championships at the London Aquatics Centre.

And Tai is hoping her success in and out of the pool will lead to more youngsters starting swimming and other sports.

She said: “To win this is just crazy – I really wasn’t expecting it.

“I think the Paralympic movement has just grown and grown and grown since 2012 and just expanding that into the future is the probably goal of every single Paralympic athlete.

“I’m really keen to just help progress Paralympic sport more and working with other children and seeing how much I have inspired them is just crazy.

“I remember being in that position when I was younger, looking up to athletes, so it’s just really trying to get more people into the sport.”

After receiving the Para-swimmer of the Year trophy, Tai reflected on her year – and looked forward to another hectic schedule in 2020.

“I think my year has just been crazy,” she said. “It’s all thanks to David, my coach. I never expected to come away from the Worlds with seven golds and break as many world records as I did this year.

“It was nice having the relay on the last day. The rest of the week was just kind of controlling emotions and getting on with the races because it was pretty packed.

“Having the relay on the last night with the rest of the team was just insane. It was pretty close. America dived in before us and I just had to bring it back and to be able to lead that relay home and get the last gold was just crazy.

“I have the Europeans before the Paralympics. The programme in Tokyo will still be pretty packed – but yes, the more the merrier.”

‘Fantastic coach’ honoured

Meanwhile, Northampton Swimming Club’s Jacquie Marshall was named the para-swimming coach of the year.

Marshall wrote on social media: “Wow! So unexpected.

“I never dreamt I would win. I am lucky, coaching para and AB in a great programme. I have a fab team at NSC and home who support all the athletes & me, they all deserve part of this award.

“Thank you British Swimming and Swim England for your help recently too.”

Her award was collected by Ellie Robinson, Maisie Summers-Newton and Zara Mullooly.

Robinson paid a glowing tribute to Marshall saying: “She is obviously a fantastic coach.

“But the main thing for us is she is not just a really great technical coach, she is such a mentor in things outside of swimming. She is really great to help us not just with the swimming but taking us through life experiences.

“She has done it so much for other athletes that she just knows what she is doing now.”

The para-swimming emerging athlete of the year went to Scotland’s World Championship bronze medallist Louis Lawlor.

Picture: British Swimming Twitter