Inspiring impact of World Para-Swimming Champs on display with fun taster session

An inclusive swimming session for people with physical impairments has been held at the host venue for this year’s World Para-Swimming Championships, ahead of the competition commencing in late July.

Swim England is a key partner of the World Para-Swimming Social Impact Programme and are keen to ensure that the World Para-Swimming Championships, which run from Monday 31 July to Sunday 6 August, deliver a legacy.

Part of that legacy is to increase the access to water for disabled people – and the national governing body recently worked with Activity Alliance and LimbPower to deliver a taster session for young people, adults and families at the newly refurbished Manchester Aquatics Centre on Sunday 23 July.

A total of 28 people attended the session, ranging from the ages of two through to 60 years and above, all with a range of impairments or long term health conditions.

For the majority of the swimmers, it was either the first time they had been swimming or the first time they had the confidence to return to the pool since the pandemic.

The session was overseen by Andy Walker from Level Water, a charity which runs specialist swimming lessons for children with disabilities across the UK.

Walker worked with the swimming teachers from Manchester Aquatics Centre, who recently undertook training with Level Water.

Inspired by the championships

On the session, he said: “The aim of the session was to provide a positive, fun and rewarding experience for the swimmers and signpost them to continue their aquatic journey.

“This session also gave teachers the opportunity to work with disabled people and put in practice what they have learnt from the Level Water training.”

Another aspect of the legacy work also sees a crash course programme being run by Level Water in Manchester over the summer, to help teach more children with disabilities to learn to swim, be safe, enjoy and benefit from the water.

To find out more about the programme, click here.

Swim England para-swimming manager, Martin Lees, discussed the inspirational impact that the world championships is, and will continue to have, on para-swimming throughout the nation.

He added: “There’s not long to go until the start of the World Para-Swimming Championships and you can feel the anticipation and excitement in Manchester as they get set to host the event.

“It’s great to see these young people, with their families, being inspired by the championships and attending the taster session.

“I am looking forward to seeing these swimmers improve their skills through learn to swim, integrating into club swimming and becoming a para-swimmer.

“I would like to thank all the partners involved in delivering this session and particularly Manchester City Council, Manchester Active and GLL.”

Building confidence

Andrew Whitaker, from Activity Alliance, worked with LimbPower’s Carly Bauert and Tom Head to co-ordinate the taster session and bring together the partners to delivery it.

Whitaker explained that being in water brings ‘significant physical and mental wellbeing benefits to individuals’.

He continued: “I hope that we have started to raise the awareness of opportunities available in the city that will be delivered as part of the legacy of the World Para-Swimming Championships being hosted in Manchester.”

Bauert said: “Hosting the world championships provides an opportunity to show to people with limb loss/difference in the UK that they can lead an active life and achieve through sport.

“We have started to create resources to help build the confidence of young people, adults and families in accessing water. These resources will be available in the near future on both the Swim England and LimbPower websites.”

Attending the session was Paralympian and coach at the City of Manchester Aquatics, Matt Walker, who also delivers the Matt Walker MBE Disability Academy which is designed for young people with eligible impairments to develop their skills and work towards becoming para-swimmers.

Walker provided some top tips for the swimmers and after the session, explained how great it was to see young people with a disability enjoying the water, adding: “We could one day see one of those swimmers at a future world championships, which is really exciting!”