Having been forced to protect themselves throughout the coronavirus pandemic, opportunities to swim competitively have been few and far between for Transplant Sport Swimming Club members over the past two years.
However, they were in action for the first time since 2019 as a team at the recent Staffordshire Masters – and they admitted it was wonderful to be back.
Here they share their stories and what it meant to be back as a club.
World record holder Jodie Cox summed it up perfectly when describing what it was like to swim with her Transplant Sport Swimming Club teammates at the Staffordshire Masters once again.
“It was a great meet with a friendly and fun atmosphere,” said Jodie, who is a British transplant athlete and set world best times in the 50m freestyle plus 50m and 100m breaststroke at the World Transplant Games.
“It was nice to have the team back in competition after two tough years.”
“Two tough years” is an understatement for club members.
While the pandemic has been an extremely difficult time for all of us, club member Sue Bennett explained the true impact it has had on the team.
“Shielding has been incredibly difficult for the past two years,” she said. “Initially, when shielding was introduced, we were advised not to leave the house at all and to open a window if we needed fresh air.
“The advice was to sleep and eat in a separate room, even for members of our own household.
“We are a tight-knit community and this has been an incredibly isolating and stressful time for many people.”
However, they found ingenious ways to keep “swimming” and sticking together like their teammates do to ensure they were there for each other – even if they couldn’t meet face to face. face to face.
“Although we came from all over the country, we continued to support and advise each other,” Sue said. “The swim team held regular Zoom team parties and games to keep their spirits up.
“Before, I trained to swim sitting on a chair in front of a mirror.
A unique team
“Once we were advised to go outside to exercise alone or with another person, I was swimming in my local lake which was devoting an hour to those protecting.
“It was very moving to swim in a lake with others who were protecting themselves. There was an unspoken understanding between us.
“Swimming at the Stafford Masters was wonderful to be back in our transplant community.
“We are a very unique team of athletes, all with a different story to tell, but brought together by organ donation, which has given us a very strong bond.
“By the pool, we are always the most vocal, eager to get our teammates through the water.
“A lot of people think a transplant is a cure, but that’s a misunderstanding and for most of us it’s not.
“It’s a treatment, sometimes a temporary treatment. We are all immunocompromised and often quietly battling long-term health issues.
Be the best they can be
This does not prevent the team from performing well when it comes to the pool.
At Stafford Leisure Centre, the 13-person team won an impressive 20 gold, eight silver and six bronze individual medals, while they also picked up three other gold medals and a silver in relay events.
Liam Barnett, Transplant Sport Swimming Club Men’s Team Manager, said: “It was a fantastic day and a great opportunity to finally come together and compete at such a great venue.”
The team are currently training for the British Transplant Games taking place in Leeds from July 28-31 – and many will represent Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the 2023 World Transplant Games in Perth, Australia.
And while they will be determined to succeed for themselves and their team, there is also another unique force that drives them.
“Every swimmer and athlete competes to be the best they can be,” added Sue.
“But a transplant recipient is also in competition for his donors and those who loved him.”