The new swimming season got off to a bit of a slow start for me. After winning 7 gold medals and setting 4 new world records at the World Transplant Games in Argentina in August, I returned from my travels a bit unwell. Luckily it wasn’t anything too serious. Autumn and winter can always be a very tough time of year for transplanted athletes, due to our susceptibility to illness because of the immunosuppressant medication we must take in order to stop our bodies from rejecting our new organs.
Anyhow, sadly I had to miss the Cambridge Grand Prix in early October, but I was able to compete at one of my favourite events in the year, the British Masters Short Course Championships in Sheffield. The event is held at Ponds Forge, the home of swimming in England which is a great pool to race in. But as well as the great pool, the event has a very friendly but fast atmosphere.
Over the three days I had some great swims, setting 4 lifetime PBs and claiming silver in the 200m Individual Medley and bronze in the 50m freestyle and 100m Butterfly in the 25-29 age group. Most noticeably however, as part of the City of Cambridge Men’s relay team I did my part to help win 3 golds and 1 silver medal. In fact, as a team we set a new British Masters Record in the 4 x 100M Medley relay. I was really chuffed, and very proud to be part of a great team. We had that record in our sights and had been working to beat it for months beforehand.
Just two weeks later and I had another major competition, the East of England Short Course Regionals in Luton. Despite my performance two weeks earlier, I managed to set another two lifetime PBs over the two days. I was very pleased to make finals in the 50m Freestyle and 100m Butterfly, finishing 5th and 7th respectively.
Just a week later and I was back in the pool racing again in Cambridge in the second round of the National Arena League. Despite setting lifetime PBs in the 100m Butterfly in the previous two meets, I went one better again and swam 58.01. I was very happy even though I would have loved to have gone sub 58! Next time for sure!
To finish off the season I swam in the East of England Masters Intercounties gala, representing Cambridgeshire and helping them to finish 2nd in the region. In addition, I won a few gold medals at the City of Cambridge Club Championships and raced for the City of Cambridge at the National Arena League Regional Final.
Needless to say, it has been a very busy autumn and I am looking forward to a short break over Christmas to ready myself for some big swimming competitions and to hit some big goals in 2016. These include the International Swim Meet in Berlin in March, British Masters Long Course Championships in April and then finally the big one, Masters European Championships at the London Aquatic Centre in May. Finally in July I will look at entering the European Transplant Games in Vantaa, Finland and the British Transplant Games in Liverpool.
Away from the pool but not too far away, I have been working hard the last year as the Transplant Team GB Swimming team manager and Transplant Sport Swimming Coordinator. As part of this role, and in cooperation with GLL at Parkside Pools in Cambridge I have organised a training weekend in Cambridge for transplanted swimmers. The athletes are from all backgrounds and will come from across the UK, but they all have one thing in common, they have all had life-saving organ or bone marrow transplants. The idea of the weekend is to keep-up the momentum gained by the swimming team at the latest World Transplant Games, as well as providing a great opportunity to welcome new faces. The weekend will take place over the 23rd and 24th January 2016 and I would like to thank Mark Gliddon, Chris Ord and George Hoppett from GLL for their help in arranging the weekend.
Finally, I would not be able to do all the swimming and competing that I love if it were not for organ donation and transplantation. However, I am one of the lucky ones. There is still a shortage of organs which means many people don’t get a transplant in time. If you would like to join the organ donor register, please express your wishes to your loved ones and sign up here: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/