Swim England

A nation swimming

‘Amazing’ swimming helped sporty Fabienne Andre develop as a para-athlete

Sporty Fabienne Andre has revealed how swimming has played a key role in her development as a para-athlete.

“Swimming has been amazing for me,” said 23-year-old Fabienne, a member of Mid Sussex Marlins. “I wish I had found the sport earlier.”

Fabienne, who was born with cerebral palsy and was named Swim England South East Region Disability Swimmer of the Year in 2018, has hailed the way water has helped her since she took up the sport at the age of 14.

She has gone on to join the Swim England National Youth Advisory Panel and hopes to share her experiences and give something back to the sport which has made her the person she is today.

Fabienne said: “If I had known about the support out there for those with disabilities and all the sports out there that were accessible, I would have got into it a lot earlier because it’s made a big difference to my mobility and my ability to do stuff in daily life.

Sense of worth and belonging

“The water is such a healer for so many people and gives them a sense of freedom because you are supported by it.”

Fabienne strives to be an advocate for all young people in the aquatic community to ensure swimming continues to develop as an inclusive and accessible sport for all.

“Once you have found a sport or tried a sport, you hear about other sports that are accessible,” she said.

“Sport makes people feel like they have a sense of worth and sense of belonging.”

In January, Fabienne was classified as a T34 wheelchair athlete and began training and competing under the guidance of the Weir Archer Academy.

Only six months into her training, she was invited to compete at the Muller Anniversary games at the London Olympic Stadium where she came second in the T33/34 100m behind the current world record holder.

Fabienne has since travelled with British Athletics to compete at the World Para Athletics Final in Paris, her first international athletics event, where she took home two gold medals in the 100m (T33/34) and 800m (T33/34/35).

And she is a firm believer that swimming has helped he achieve that success.

“Sport is such a big part of my life now, and has been ever since I started swimming,” she said. “It has given me so many opportunities.

“The lido itself were a great support, enabling me to train more locally when I couldn’t make it to certain places.”

Fantastic addition

Claire Coleman, Head of Volunteering and Pathways, said: “Fabienne has been a fantastic addition to the Youth Advisory Panel this year.

“Sharing her knowledge and experience as a para-swimmer has allowed us to support our commitment to achieving inclusivity and accessibility.

“Her story demonstrates how swimming and the adoption of a holistic athlete development approach to coaching can prepare athletes for careers in other para-sports so that they are able to continue their journey as a para-athlete.”

To find out more about Fabienne and the rest of our National Youth Advisory Panel, and see what they’ve been up to, head to our Volunteering in Aquatics webpages.

Find out more about Swim England para-swimming opportunities