Our new registered para-swimmer - Edie Harrison

Miranda Ludden

Edie first joined the Dulwich Dolphin/Southwark Para Swimming  Programme (DDSPS) on 18/06/2017 and has now become a Dulwich Dolphin’s para-swimmer registered with the club as a Category 2 member and therefore opening up a competition pathway for her.

All para-swimmer need to have an S1-S12 classification and having successfully passed the first round of this process Edie is now on the list to be given her official classification. This means that she will be able to compete against swimmers with the same or similar levels of impairment. As Swim England is presently re-categorising all swimmers from Olympic champions down it is quite possibly going to be a long wait!

Edie has left sided hemiplegia and epilepsy. Hemiplegia is a form of cerebral palsy and means one side of the body is affected. This results in muscle weakness and tightness, which in turn affects co-ordination, balance and any bilateral task. Her epilepsy is not fully controlled with medication so this adds an extra complication to everyday life.

But Edie does not let these facts get in the way of leading an active life - she horse rides and goes to contemporary dance classes as well as her swimming. She is interested in watching many sports but particularly rugby league.She obsessively followsher team ‘Castleford Tigers’ and has been to more sporting events than most 14 year old girls I know!

Being in the water and swimming, even as a baby, gave her freedom of movement and she took to it very naturally.  Although it took longer to learn to swim she has always been very confident and happy in the water. Initially she could only have 1 to 1 lessons, as there were no group lessons/clubs in Southwark that had the experience and expertise needed to teach a young child with additional needs. This continued until I found Jo Rowe and subsequently her DD/Southwark Para-Swimming squad. Edie was reluctant at first to join the group as everyone else was a lot older and the dynamic of a group was a little overwhelming. However, Edie was quickly made to feel at home in this new swimming environment by Jo and her team of volunteers. This would have been much easier if she had been taught as part of a small group from an earlier age but there just weren’t any opportunities at that time.

This is still a major issue for many para-swimmers in this country; where they have different needs from a mainstream swimmer but also want to be part of a team and given the specific training and opportunities to enable them to develop and flourish.

The DDSPS swimming sessions, which are a joint initiative between Dulwich Dolphins and Southwark Sports Development,take place every Sunday afternoon from 2.00-3.00pm at the Dulwich Leisure Centre. They support young people, with additional needs, to develop their swimming ability to a level where they can represent Southwark in the London Youth Games.They also offer the opportunity to participate in the Dulwich Dolphins’ Development Championships.

Since joining this group Edie has made tremendous progress:  represented Southwark for the first time in 2018 at the Youth Games,when she won the silver medal in the Functional Athlete category with a personal best of 43.5 for 25m Front Crawl; competed in an open swimming event for the first time at the Len Badcock Memorial meet where sheimproved her Front Crawl PB with a time of 42.6 and another PB in Backstroke with a time of 39.07. She furthered her swimming experience by participating in the DD Development Championships. 

Edie has also started attending sessions with the London Disability Swimming Club (LDSC) at the Aquatic Centre in the Olympic Park, Stratford and has progressed from the developmental sessions to training with their main squad in the 50m pool. She is also benefitting greatly from an additional weekly session, generously sponsored by Alleyn’sschool, where she is able to gain additional pool time to focus on improving all aspects of her swimming.

Children of all abilities, no matter what daily challenges they face deserve the opportunities to develop their skills and to be able to compete in their chosen sport.Thisoften requires substantial support and instigating new initiatives for this to become a reality.

Over the last two years Edie has shown how much progress she can make and now that she has been officially registered with Dulwich Dolphins as a Category 2 swimmer she can move onto that all important classification list and who knows where that will take her in the future?May she be the first of many more para-swimmers to be nurtured and supported by Dulwich Dolphins.

By Caroline Harrison, mother of Edie Harrison

http://www.hemihelp.org.uk/home

https://www.youngepilepsy.org.uk

https://www.paralympic.org -World Para Swimming Rules and Regulations