DHF are proud to announce we are supporting Maddie Harris, a para-swimmer from Kingston-Upon-Thames, with her ambitions to compete at the highest level as part of Swim England’s para-swimming talent programme. Here is Maddie’s story in her own words:

I was born with cerebral palsy and have a weakness in all the muscles on my right side (known as hemiplegia). I became interested in competitive para-swimming after watching the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games in London. Ellie Simmonds was (and still is) my inspiration.

The following summer my swimming lessons at Hampton pool came to an end, as my teacher Theresa – ‘T’ retired. I knew I wanted to do more swimming but didn’t know where I could go. We ‘googled’ swim clubs and emailed a number of local ones. Elmbridge Phoenix Swimming Club (EPSC) replied inviting me to trial out and so this is where my story began.

EPSC is a mainstream competitive swimming club in Walton upon Thames and I train with them 6 days a week, twice on a Sunday.

Following an assessment with the British Para-swimming assessment team at a regional para-meet in Southampton in February 2014, I was classified as being an S9 for freestyle, backstroke and butterfly, SB8 for breaststroke and an SM9 for individual medley. I am scheduled to be re-classified again by the end of this year (2018). If you’re interested in reading more about classification and competitive para-swimming, visit the British Swimming website: www.britishswimming.org/browse-sport/para-swimming/

Since being classified, I have competed in many mainstream and para-swimming meets at county, regional and national level and annually at the British International Para-Swimming Championships. When I swim at the para-swimming competitions, I get the opportunity to compete amongst (and watch) the elite para-swimmers. I got to meet Ellie Simmonds at the 2015 winter national para-swimming championships in Manchester.

Last year I was invited to join the Swim England’s para-swimming talent programme on their foundation level. Then, at the end of 2017 I was invited to move up, on to the development programme. This is a great achievement but there is still much more I need to do to try and achieve my dream.

Having the Dylan Howells Foundation support the EPSC coaches to attend all the para-swimming meets I attend will be amazing. The coaches are invaluable in guiding and supporting the club swimmers at the mainstream meets, but it has been difficult for EPSC to consistently provide support for one para-swimmer, as the cost usually includes travel, accommodation and food for a number of days.

The para-swimming meets for 2018 are:

Date Event Location
11th March Spring regional para-swim development meet  Horfield pool, Bristol
14-15th April National Junior para-swimming championships  The Quays, Southampton
31st May-3rd June British International Para-Swimming Meet  Ponds Forge, Sheffield
 31st July-4th August  Swim England Summer Championships  Ponds Forge, Sheffield
 Sept/Oct  Autumn regional para-swim development meet  TBC
8-9th December  Winter National Para-Swimming Championships  Aquatics Centre, Manchester