"I wanted to share this photo of myself (aged 6 or 7) with Duncan Goodhew, taken at Hayling Island holiday camp in the mid-1990s, when Duncan came to open the new indoor pool.
The photo has always been a big joke in my family as I am looking so miserable and most people think I am having a tantrum… But actually, I am suffering from shock!
Not the shock of meeting the famous Duncan Goodhew, but sadly at the hidden shock that I had just been rescued by a lifeguard from the bottom of the deep end of the new pool.
While messing about, my big brother had pulled me along into the deep and then jokingly let go! Much to his horror I sank like a rock, and all I remember is a feeling of not being able to breathe, everything becoming muffled and a blue blur which all turned out to be the view from underwater.
Luckily the lifeguard that day was on the ball and quickly jumped in, pulling me onto the poolside and saved me.
With my brother telling me he would kill me if I told our mum (obviously he was scared and shocked himself) and the fact I had just nearly drowned, you can see why this is not my happiest photo moment!
I kept that secret for years, even when my family would get this photo out and joke about my sulky face. I sadly also kept the fear of water with me as well.
But in 2019, after years of saying I am going to get back in a pool, I qualified as an aqua teacher and swim school assistant. I then taught myself to swim – or should I say to be brave, float and blow bubbles.
In 2019, I took part in a Team Swimathon and did two lengths over the deep end of the pool when it was quiet, albeit very slowly and a bit shakily.
What’s more, this year I endured five months out of the pool after I tore my meniscus (cartilage in the knee), teaching myself breaststroke. So, in March 2020, I booked in six sessions to learn how to do backstroke so I could complete 400m, as I still couldn’t do breaststroke due to my knee injury.
For me, floating on my back after years of the fear of drowning was a massive achievement. However, lockdown kicked in after just three of my six sessions!
Not to be defeated by Covid-19, I planned a swim session for late September 2020 to take on my Swimathon challenge. I got straight into the water and smashed out 31 lengths of backstroke in 45 minutes! Never did I think I would ever float on my back, let alone not drown.
I am sadly not working as a swim assistant at the moment, but it’s great having the skills and I now encourage anyone who says they can’t, or they are scared of water to give it a go. Floating and blowing bubbles are lifesaving skills in my eyes now.
I am looking forward to getting in the pool on holidays now, and I have even been kayaking this year. I now look at my picture with Duncan and feel proud of how far I have come. Rather than being hidden away, this photo will go beside my Swimathon medal in pride of place."
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