English Channel swim

Paralympian Alice Tai swims the English Channel with five novice swimmers for the ‘Channel More’ Project

The Channel More team’s swim took place after months of training with Professor Greg Whyte to get the participants, all of whom had no sea swimming experience, ready for the swim of their lives in the English Channel

On Saturday 30 September, five novice swimmers completed an English Channel relay alongside Alice Tai MBE, as part of Optimum Nutrition’s Channel More project.

Despite large waves in the first two hours and the toughest conditions any of the swimmers had experienced before, the team completed the swim in 8h, 49m.

The five participants were chosen for the Channel More project following a nationwide search over six months ago, in a bid to “inspire the participants to break through personal barriers and unleash their full potential.”

The diverse group each had their own personal barriers to overcome when completing the challenge, including Paralympian Alice Tai MBE, who had to learn to swim again after having her lower leg amputated. She also had to overcome a fear of fish to enter the world of open-water swimming.

Hafsa Mughal could not swim before the challenge started and had to learn from scratch, while Tom Peters – who taught himself to swim via YouTube – has permanent nerve damage in his legs and swam his part of the challenge using only the power of his arms. Unfortunately he lost his goggles as he dived in the water.

Fellow team member Seren Jones, founder of the Black Swimming Association, hopes completing the swim will inspire others to take the plunge, while Aidan Pritchard, whose son was born last year with Talipes, is fundraising for the Steps Charity as part of the challenge. Tony Willis, aged 68, is an amputee, having lost his leg when he was eight. Tony completed the relay for the team when they reached France. He was greeted by a local woman who handed him a pebble – a tradition in Channel swimming.

The team underwent a rigorous five-month training programme, created by open water specialist, sports scientist and former Olympian Professor Greg Whyte, all fuelled by Optimum Nutrition to prepare for the high-performance feat. The programme saw them transform from not having any formal sea swimming experience, and in Hafsa’s case, no swimming experience at all, to accomplished open-water swimmers ready to take on the English Channel.

On completing the challenge, Alice Tai MBE said, “I cannot believe we have just swum the English Channel! It’s been five months in the making of strict training, both physically and mentally to get prepared for the challenge. I feel overcome with emotions; there were points where it felt almost unachievable, but we came together as a team and really pushed our level endurance to keep going. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without Hasfa, Seren, Tom, Aiden and Tony but also without Greg, who has been so motivating and consistent with all of his training and support.”

For more information about the Channel More Project, visit optimumnutrition.com/en-gb/channelmore

Read a relay team’s advice for how to prepare for an English Channel relay swim.

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Abi writes swimming news stories and features for the Outdoor Swimmer website and manages the social media channels. She loves to swim, run, hike and SUP close to her home in Herefordshire. While she’s a keen wild swimmer, Abi is new to the world of open water events and recently completed her first open water mile. She has previously written for The Guardian, BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC History Magazine and Ernest Journal.