Team of five ‘inexperienced’ swimmers conquer English Channel

A team of five people with limited swimming experience battled strong currents in a relay swim across the English Channel.

Following a nationwide search led by Paralympic swimming gold medallist Alice Tai, five people were chosen to join her in the swim as part of dietary advice organisation Optimum Nutrition’s Channel More project.

Aidan Pritchard, 35, from Merton, took part in the grueling challenge to raise money for Steps Charity – a charity that supports children with lower limb conditions.

Mr Pritchard’s son , Lars Pritchard, was born with Talipes last year. He turned one-year-old on the day of the swim. Talipes covers a range of conditions where a baby is born with their feet turned in. 

The Channel More swim team on the big day (Picture: Optimum Nutrition)

Mr Pritchard said: “It was a great success. Throughout the race I experienced every emotion and really got to test myself which was a massive reason for applying for this challenge in the first place.”

So far, Mr Pritchard has raised £6,600 for Steps Charity. He said: “I cannot put into words how much means to me and my family. 

“When Lars was diagnosed with Talipes – I’m ashamed to say my world came crashing down.

“Luckily we were handed a Steps Charity leaflet that fully explained the process. It sounds silly but we then felt we weren’t alone on this journey.”

The team underwent a rigorous five-month training programme earlier this year, created by former Olympian, Professor Greg Whyte. 

On September 31, the five participants finished the challenge – covering more than 21 miles – in eight hours and 49 minutes.

Each swimmer had their own challenge to overcome, including Ms Tai, who had to learn to swim again after having her lower leg amputated last year. 

Other participants included Hafsa Mughal, from Waltham Forest, who could not swim before the challenge and learnt from scratch. 

Seren Jones, from east London, who set up the Black Swimming Association to encourage more people from minority backgrounds to swim, Tom Peters, from Sheffield, who has permanent nerve damage in his legs and powered his swim using just his arms, and Tony Willis, from Surrey, who had his leg amputated when he was aged eight.

Ms Tai said: “I cannot believe we have just swum the English Channel.

“I feel overcome with emotions. There were points where it felt almost unachievable, but we came together as a team and really pushed our level endurance to keep going.”

Pictured top: Top, from left, Alice Tai, Tony Willis, Minreet Kaur, Aidan Pritchard and Tom Peters. Bottom, from left, Seren Jones and Hafsa Mughal (Picture: Optimum Nutrition)

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