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My Swim Story – Graeme Moore

Graeme Moore suffers from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and has had both his feet amputated. This summer he plans to complete the Great North Swim

Tell us how you got into open water


I raced in the pool as a youngster,

and continued into my 20s and even

early 30s. At that time my daughter

was getting into swimming and that

led me into coaching and my eventual

involvement with Phoenix Triathlon.

After my first amputation in 2014 I

decided to set myself a challenge as

part of my recovery and rehabilitation

so I signed up for the Great North

Swim 2015 in Windermere. I trained in

the pool initially and then went with a

group to Ellerton Lake for my first ever

open water swim. I did four laps, which

is just over a mile, and it felt fantastic.

How did you get on in your first mass

participation event?

It’s a little tricky at the Great North

Swim as it’s a land-based start.

However, the support and the life

guards were fantastic. I got into the

water after everyone else in my wave

and the lifeguards promised to meet me at the end with my wheelchair. The biggest problem is that I’m a relatively fast swimmer so I soon started overtaking other swimmers andit got a bit chaotic in the middle. I felt like I was in the middle of a cavalry charge. However, it was a really big step forwards for me and a fantastic achievement to finish.

How’s your training going for 2017?

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able

to get into the water these past few

months. Over the last 20 years I’ve

had numerous operations on my feet

to try to straighten them and repair

the damage caused by my illness.

However, it got to the stage where the

best course of action was amputation

and I had my second foot removed in

August 2016. The stump is still tender

and fragile so I’ve been advised to keep

out of the water for now and I have to

confess that I’ve put on a little weight

as a consequence. On the other hand,

I’ve been working with a great team of physiotherapists who’ve really put me through my paces and helped maintain and build my upper body strength. I hope to get back in the water soon!

How did your first amputation affect

how you swim?

Not as badly as I feared, especially

when wearing a wetsuit, so I’m hoping

for something similar now I have both feet removed. I’ve already had my wetsuit adapted for one stump so I need to go back and have the same thing done on the other leg. In training, I use a pull buoy a lot as I have to rely totally on my upper body for propulsion so I’m also looking to see if I can get something built into my wetsuit that works a bit like a pull buoy in the open water. It’s not as if I’m racing or competing so I don’t think it’s cheating. I just want to make myself as comfortable in the water as I can be.

How has your disability changed the

way you coach?

On a practical level it’s made it much

harder to coach cycling or running

sessions, although I am working with

Evans (the bike shop) to see if they

can adapt a road bike so that I can

ride it. I do my poolside coaching

from a wheelchair. I think having

gone through what I have helps me

tune in and empathise better with

other people who are going through

difficult changes in their lives. I’d also

like to think that seeing me making the

effort and getting to the pool to coach

inspires the people in my sessions to

try a little harder. There are definitely

some positives that come from it.

What advice would you offer to other

people recovering from setbacks or


Keep a positive attitude and don’t let

things beat you. I always look for ways

around problems. Disability shouldn’t

stand in your way. There is a way

forward and a place for you in society.

Your worth is the same.

Through the

events Graeme

takes part in

he raises funds

for the Arctic

One Foundation

which provides

vital equipment

to give children

and adults with

disabilities the

opportunity to take part in sports. He is an Ambassador for Sports with the Arctic One Foundation in the North East.

What’s your Swim Story? Email: editor@outdoorswimmer.com with the subject ‘Swim Story’

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Jonathan is a year-round skins swimmer with a particular love of very cold water. He has competed in ice swimming competitions around the world. He is a qualified open water coach with a particular love of introducing new swimmers to the open water.