Inspiring swimmers from across the region and further afield gathered in Ipswich this week to kick off the countdown to the 2019 John West Great East Swim. Thousands of people of all ages and abilities are expected to take part in the popular event which will be staged at Alton Water on 22nd June 2019.

The swimmers stories are being highlighted to celebrate the incredibly diverse range of participants as part of Great Swim’s ‘Unexpectedly Great’ campaign.

Event Director Alex Jackson explains “For over 10 years we’ve consistently seen a range of body shapes, levels of fitness, types of disabilities, ages and different motivations for taking part reflected in our Great East Swim participants.  

“Open water swimming is a sport that continuously challenges expectations. This year we really want to challenge the wider world’s preconceptions of who an open water swimmer is, and hopefully encourage people who think it’s not for them, to give the event a go.” 

Amongst the swimmers featured in the campaign are:

Sylvia Mac – Influencer and body positivity campaigner Sylvia is a childhood burns survivor, who endured 3rd and 4th degree burns across her body as the result of an accident when she was only three years old. The experience and her subsequent treatment left her traumatised and suffering from anxiety, depression and PTSD in later life. Although she swam competitively as a young adult, she struggled with confidence around her scars, which had a profoundly negative effect on her life. Now aged 50 she campaigns to support those with disfigurement in a variety of ways including fortnightly swimming for people with skin conditions. 

Stuart Ellis is taking part in the 2019 Suffolk County Council Great East Swim Outreach Programme which has helped to motivate him to improve his fitness and feel a sense of challenge.  Having served 10 years in the British Army and 23 years in the Prison Service he has spent most of his life being extremely fit.  In 2009 he lost his leg in an accident and has struggled to exercise and maintain his fitness ever since.  Stuart finds that swimming lifts him, recharges his internal batteries and makes him feel so much better within himself.  He would like to inspire people to start swimming and feel the benefits both the physically and mentally.

The Great East Swim is staged in partnership with Suffolk County Council. Dr Amanda Jones, Director of Public Health said; “We have witnessed many inspirational stories over the years of individuals overcoming real adversity to participate and complete the challenge of the Great East Swim, and it is clear this year will be no different.“

The John West Great East Swim takes place on Saturday 22 June, with distances suitable for swimmers of all abilities from the entry level Swim 250 for anyone aged eight and up to the gruelling 10K open water marathon distance.

Entries to the Great East Swim are open now, for more information and to enter, visit: Greatswim.org

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