How did you get into sport?
Being raised in Cornwall, water is never far away. My parents wanted me to be safe whilst at the beach, so I started swimming lessons when I was a baby. My first swimming teacher was a man called Mr D. His enthusiasm for the sport teamed with his bad jokes made me fall in love with swimming. I joined my local swimming club, and as they say it all went from there.
What was the biggest challenge you overcame?
I struggled academically at school because I am severely dyslexic. I used swimming as a release for my frustration which really did change my life and help me overcome my demons.
What are your three biggest achievements in sport?
- My first national medal. I had come fourth three years in a row. On the fourth year I won a bronze medal and it still means the world to me.
- Being the first woman in the world to make an Olympic final in the swimming pool and win an Olympic open water marathon medal.
- Representing my country in more than 10 world and 15 European Championships over a decade.
Who most inspired you and why?
My dad. He has never said good luck to me before a swimming race, he would always say “you have worked hard for this - now go out and enjoy it”. This motto has always stayed with me; the harder you work, the easier the task becomes.
When and why did you get involved with the Athlete Mentor programme?
I first heard about the Athlete Mentor programme in 2012. From my first interview I loved what the programme stands for. I have loved my time inspiring and working alongside some fantastic young people.
What has been your favourite moment as a YST Athlete Mentor?
For me it was while visiting a school in Camborne, Cornwall. I met a young man who was on the verge of being expelled from school, due to angry outbursts. I ran a workshop with his class and spoke to him about using sport to curb his anger. Just before I left I spoke to him about joining a local boxing club. When I returned 12 months later his teacher informed me that the young man had turned his life around. He had joined his local boxing club, where he was excelling and joined the school council. For me that epitomised my role as an Athlete mentor - it used sport as a catalyst for change.