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You are here:  Home | News | News archive | News Archive - 2012 | March 2012 | Torchbearer Alice inspires young swimmers
News

Torchbearer Alice inspires young swimmers
 
 


Release date: 19 March 2012

Alice Tai
Alice Tai
Olympic Torchbearer and Paralympic swimming hopeful Alice Tai (13yrs), from New Milton, was no fish out of water when she assisted with the New Forest Swim Gala at Lymington Health and Leisure on Saturday, 17 March.

Young swimmers from across the New Forest's five health and leisure centres' Swim Academies competed to represent the New Forest at the Hampshire Games in Aldershot in June.

Alice, who attends Bournemouth Collegiate School, was born with bilateral talipes (clubfoot) and has had thirteen operations in 12 years. Despite her disability, Alice has huge determination and ambition and is well on her way to the Paralympics in 2016. "My three main targets are the Europeans this year, the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and the Paralympics in 2016," said Alice. Alice will also carry the Olympic Flame on Thursday 12 July in neighbouring Dorset having been successfully nominated to be a Torchbearer by a former teacher.

Alice is a member of the Seagulls Swimming Club in Christchurch and joined at the age of eight when doctors said she might benefit from water therapy. Before that, she had spent the best part of two years in a wheelchair. "I remember when I first joined - a couple weeks later they had the Club Championships and I refused to take part," said Alice, "I never wanted to compete. I didn't like the thought of having to swim fast and losing."

But five years on Alice is proving an inspiration and can't wait to get in the water every day. It was only in October 2010 that Alice was officially classified as a disabled swimmer and her potential to compete in the Paralympics was realised. "We didn't realise that she could be classified and that she was already achieving world-class times," said mum Angie, "She's always been so determined and I think it's because she's always wanted to hold her own having always swum with able-bodied people.

"It's been a whirlwind 18 months and sometimes it's like having two children in one with Alice because her swimming is like a whole other life."

In 2011 Alice was internationally classified, allowing her to compete in international competitions. In September 2011 she was also selected to swim for her school's swim academy for elite athletes.

But all of this hasn't come without hard work - Alice has to be at poolside for 5.45am three mornings a week to train for two hours, as well as two hours every evening and regular sessions in Bath on a Saturday. Alice said: "I know that you only get out what you put in and I really want it. I would encourage any young person who has a goal to just go get it!" Alice hopes that her hard work and commitment will help her to achieve qualifying times for the Europeans later this year when she takes part in the second round of the Paralympic trials for 2012 over Easter.

In January 2012 Alice joined the Hampshire Talented Athlete Scheme (HTAS), supported by New Forest District Council. "It's been a god-send as Alice can carry on swimming in the holidays for free at New Milton Health and Leisure when her school pool is closed," said Angie.

On Wednesday, 21 March, Alice will attend the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Sports Awards having been shortlisted for the Disabled Swimmer of the Year award.

For more information about the Olympic Torch Relay and inspirational Torchbearers in the New Forest, visit www.newforest.gov.uk/London2012 (Torch Relay).