Swimming is the sport and pastime that is drilled into many of us as children.
We have lessons as part of the primary school curriculum, we go to the local swimming pool once or twice a week, and most of us like to splash about in a pool when we’re on holiday.
Many of also swim because the hydrotherapy has considerable physical and mental health benefits.
I like swimming because it keeps me fit, but at the beginning it wasn’t just a skill I learnt for the fun of it. For me, it is life saving because if I fall into a pool or body of water, my ears can’t tell me which way is up or down.
When doctors discovered that my missing cochleas were one of the reasons behind my deafness, one thing they told my parents was that I would have to learn how to swim.
That was not a problem. I come from a family of swimmers, and they were already sharing their fondness for the water with my older sister.
My parents started taking me to swimming lessons when I was four years old and they were able to find lessons that were taught by someone who could sign!
That was the beginning of my love for swimming because once a week was not enough for me. My sister and I joined one of Warrington’s swimming clubs and were swimming nearly three to four times a week.
It was good because I could feel myself improving in technique and speed, and everyone was fairly accommodating. Coaches took the time to repeat things and other swimmers tried learning some basic signs.
However, when a lot of things at the club changed, including the coaching staff, I stopped enjoying it as much. There was a lot of bullying from newer swimmers and a couple of the new coaches would forget I was there.
Most of the time, I ended up copying what other people were doing and only when my sister was swimming near me and listening out for my coach, could she stop to interpret.
I thought it was unfair on her because I wanted her to carry on swimming and not worry about me. It also became tiring when I moved to a new school and was spending nearly all of the Friday on trains before swimming in the evening.
Regardless, it was during my time at the club that I started winning a couple of medals for postal swims (long distance swimming competitions). I was proud because it helped to prove to people that my deafness was not going to stop me from winning medals.
I left the club when I moved to Doncaster for college for four years and I actually stopped swimming for a while because I was spending more time socialising with the Deaf community.
When I came back and enrolled at college was closer to home in Liverpool, I started wanting to swim again. There was a bit of trial and error in finding the right club for me but two years ago, my parents and I eventually found Trafford Metro Borough Swimming Club and it brought back my love and passion for swimming.
I am the only Deaf swimmer there but the coaches and other swimmers are incredibly accommodating. They write down swimming instructions on a whiteboard, they use a flashing light for galas, and my swimming coach Louisa has undertaken BSL level 1 so she can communicate more easily for me.
She has also been instrumental in encouraging me to participate in various local and regional competitions, the most recent being in Blackpool where I won five medals for my respective categories. As well as pushing myself to swim more, being involved with Trafford Metro has helped to give me more confidence in interacting with the Hearing community and sharing with them some Deaf awareness.
Swimming in the Deaf community was also something I felt very strongly about and around the same time I joined Trafford Metro, I began swimming with the GB Deaf Club.
I love it because I get to meet up with other Deaf swimmers I have never met before and it’s nice to be a part of the wider sporting community, even if it means a lot of travelling to different parts of the UK.
I am looking forward to being able to participate in the Manchester swimming group soon because it means I don’t have to travel very far to any of the chosen pools and leisure centres.
Swimming is my favourite sport because I love being in the water. When I am swimming I don’t feel stressed about college and I can relax more easily.
It has also given me confidence I wouldn’t have found with any other sport. In the pool it is just me with the water, and as it is an individual sport, I only have to focus on what I am doing. It gives me the opportunity to push myself to be better.
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
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