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Great Britain's para-swimmers speak on impact swimming has had on their lives

Some of Great Britain’s top para-swimmers have expressed the importance of the sport and the impact it has had on their lives.

Five members of the British para-swimming team spoke about their experiences in and out of the water, showing the significance that pools and facilities can have on swimmers with impairments.

It comes at a time where Swim England are raising awareness to ensure the Government provides additional support for swimming pools and leisure centres.

At the end of 2022, almost 50,000 people pledged their support to Swim England’s #SaveOurPools campaign.

The petition containing 48,928 signatures has been presented to the Government calling on MPs to ‘recognise the particular vulnerability of swimming pools and leisure centres as part of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme Review’.

The aim was to show the Government how much pools and leisure centres mean to communities across the country in a bid to prevent a ‘dire’ situation from escalating further.

A number of pools have already temporarily closed due to rising energy costs, with others reducing opening hours or water temperature in a bid to reduce costs.

Zach Washington-Young commented on how swimming helped his recovery, after he suffered spinal injuries and was told by medical experts that there was no chance of him ever walking again.

He said: “Swimming gave me an opportunity to feel free again.

“To able to put my physical impairments behind to one side, you know, quite literally at the side of the pool while I got in the water and felt free and it enabled me to feel and to reconnect with how life used to feel like.

“And it was at that moment when I started to develop more and more passion for sport. I’m thankful that now I’m at a point where I get to do what I love every single day.”

‘Accepting us as who we are’

The British Para-Swimming team are coming off the back of a successful 2022 which saw them finish fourth in the medal table (with 32 medals to their name) at the Para Swimming World Championships in Madeira and an impressive Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

The team are now gearing up for a home World Championships in Manchester this summer and have spoken about the benefits the sport has had on both their physical and mental health.

Paralympic medallist and world champion Ellie Challis shone in 2022 and she said that she’s met some of her closest friends throughout her time in the pool.

“I’ve made the closest friends over the last couple years in swimming and it’s a more fun way for me to do physio and that’s still how I see it now – it’s just what I enjoy more.

“Physio, to me, I used to get a bit bored sometimes so it’s just another way of doing the same thing, but something more enjoyable – and the racing, it’s just the best part of it.”

Twins Eliza and Scarlett Humphrey both made their international debuts last year.

The pair are both visually impaired and swim in the S11 category and the duo recounted what it meant to see what visually impaired swimmers can achieve.

Eliza said: “In 2018, we watched on YouTube the European Para-Swimming Championships in Dublin, and it was really exciting to watch people with the similar impairment to myself with visual impairment racing, and it was quite exciting to see what people with visual impairment can achieve.”

Scarlett added: “My team-mates just accept us as who we are rather than our impairment and the squad itself is really inclusive. So swimming offers us a space where we can be independent and enjoy ourselves in an environment that’s also able to support us.”

You can continue to support the #SaveOurPools campaign by Downloading our template letter to send to your MP asking them to lobby the Prime Minister and call for the Government to #SaveOurPools.

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