Spot of Wild Swimming anyone? The names Russell..James Russell
Wild swimmer and Team Brit driver James Russell is the latest entrant to the Wild Dart Swim next September. But as he explains in our guest blog, he isn’t just any old swimmer.
I was born with a congenital defect to my right lower leg. So to that end I don’t know what it is like to swim with two normal legs. I take my prosthetic off when swimming, as the prosthetic is actually more buoyant that my normal leg, therefore it would be a hindrance.
My whole life I have done whatever any youngster and now young man (am I still a young man at 34?) would do. I took part in all sports at school, I joined a full able bodied rugby team in my early teens and I have only just retired from the game. And now I compete for Team Brit in the racing world. I think the thing that I have enjoyed in all sports is that even though I am disabled, I took part on the same playing field, or pool as able bodied people. Often beating my opponents. Let’s face it, a missing leg doesn’t make a massive difference when swimming.
There aren’t really any challenges for me when swimming. I guess when I used to race I was only pushing off the wall with one leg during tumble turns. But apart from that it was just a case of jump in and get on with it. The only small problem would be that I used to have to hop by the side of the pool. Which left me getting a bad knee in my late teens. So when I swim now I wear my leg to poolside (or lakeside) and take it off before I enter the water.
One of the reasons I love swimming, especially open water swimming. Is that when you are in the water, absolutely no one has any idea that you are disabled. You are literally look at as an equal. No weird, what’s up with his leg looks. For me what makes it even more fun is when you then climb out of the water. And everyone then realizes that you aren’t like everyone else. The following story makes me and my father-in-law laugh.
I was taking part in the Padstow to Rock swim a number of years ago. I had to enter myself into the elite set of swimmers. Due to there being no space in the general swim category. I knew I could swim the mile, but now I had a time restrain of 30 minutes on me. Which was a bit tight for me. I started the swim and tried really hard to pace myself. But about half way across I was blowing. I struggled to the end and we had to exit the water on a slip. As I got into shallow water I thought it best to turn onto my bum and shuffle up the ramp. One of the marshalls looked down at me and rather angrily said ‘what to bloody hell are you doing, hurry up and get out of the way’. To which I point at my missing limb and told him I would find it difficult to get up and walk. At the same time my father-in-law was creeping round the rocks on knee high water with my prosthetic in hand. He then got stopped and accosted by the same Marshall, who start arguing with him and saying he couldn’t be there. To which my F-I-L replied ‘I’ve got his bloody leg’. All was well in the end. But we still smile about it now.
Team Brit aims to inspire disabled and able bodied people with its competitive zeal and ace driver teams, who are comprised of ill or injured soldiers.