As a have-a-go triathlete I enjoy the cycling and the running, but the swimming has always been a challenge. Things have improved thanks to coaching sessions at my local club and even some paid-for one-to-one sessions. Time in the pool makes a big difference, but still, this is my least favourite discipline and one that gives me most frustration.
But I have new inspiration. Having been lucky enough to buy tickets for one of the Paralympics swimming events I sat in my seat and stared in utter wonder and the amazing athletic abilities of so many different athletes. While their disabilities ranged from mental impairments through physical difficulties to full-scale limb losses I couldn’t get over how incredibly adept each of these swimmers had become at speeding thought the water.
In one medley heat, a swimmer powered through his three swim strokes with only one arm. Another swimmer had no legs, while one amazing athlete had no legs and only a third of each arm for propulsion. Put still he ploughed through the metres.
On the TV, in another swim event I spotted a one armed swimmer swimming the butterfly stroke.
All this has put all my swimming moans to shame. While I have agonised endlessly over my freestyle stroke, the catch, the body position, where my head is in the water, my leg power etc, I have full use of all limbs and all muscles. I have not had to learn to swim while faced with the extra challenge of physical impairment. I might have a stiff neck and one shoulder that has very limited rotation but this is nothing compared to the Paralympic swimmers.
And so I watched more closely. I was fascinated to see how the Paralympics swimmers propelled themselves in the water so much faster than most able-bodied swimmers. The swimmers with no legs actually use their hips, stomach and bum to pull off an amazingly powerful looking kick, while other swimmers missing one arm or one leg had adapted their technique to compensate by using their useful limb at high speed. Their balance and core muscles must be incredible. Just try swimming with one arm or one leg and see how tough it is.
So my thoughts as I continue with my own battle in the pool will be that if the Paralympic swimmers can be so incredibly amazing – it’s about time I got over my whinging and started focusing on what I can do with my muscles and my stroke. Oh, and I’m going to hit the gym for a little more core strengthening.