Godmanchester Woman Begins Solo Swim in English Channel Using Only Her Arms
BY: Michelle Liew
This woman finds the touch of water painful but that did not stop her from planning for a solo English Channel swim only with her arms.
Sophie Etheridge, 31, took up the challenge to raise the profile of a Swimming Teachers Association campaign for swimmers with disabilities.
Sophie, from Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire, has had fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome since 2011.
Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body, and complex regional pain syndrome, "a poorly understood condition where a person experiences persistent, severe and debilitating pain"
Her biggest challenge was always "controlling and managing my pain whilst I'm swimming" will be her biggest challenge.
"Everything is painful, sitting here is painful, the wind on my legs or water on my legs, everything is painful constantly,” she stated.
Sophie had been a competitive swimmer ever since she was a child and enjoyed triathlons until she was hit by a car in 2011.
Her accident left her in permanent pain and limited mobility and being largely dependent on a wheelchair. The pain can spread to her whole body and at night she sleeps with a cage over her legs and feet so the duvet does not touch them.
Swimming had always been her comfort zone and getting back to open water swimming was a long and painful journey for her. She is unable to use her legs, but has once more become a strong swimmer. Sophie set up the Adaptive and Disabled Open Water Swimmers group in 2021 and as of now it has nearly 1,000 members.
Her solo Channel swim will raise funds to offer free training for teachers to be disabled swimming specialists, and for teachers with disabilities to get into open water coaching.
Sophie will be swimming for 30-miles (48km) starting Thursday.
"There are a lot of things to think about and for me the big one is controlling and managing my pain while I'm swimming.
"Being in the water hurts, being thrown around by the waves hurts even more. You have huge ferries and tankers going past you and I have been learning how to swim controlling that level of pain - it's as much mental as physical."