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Disability: Paralysed Woman To Swim English Channel

August 3, 2021

A former police officer who was paralysed in a bike crash 20 years ago is aiming to swim the English Channel.

Paula Craig, from Pembrokeshire, is hoping to become the first person with a complete spinal cord injury to swim the Channel without a wetsuit.

Ms Craig, 58, will swim the Channel as part of a relay team of six, who will take turns to swim for an hour each.

“If you’re going to do a challenge then you may as well make it tough,” she said.

At the time of her accident in 2001, when she was hit by a car while on her bike, Ms Craig was working for the Metropolitan Police in London, as well as being a sub-three hour marathon runner and triathlete.

She said: “I woke up on the roadside and I’ve always said that that was a huge thing really, because I think I began to deal with it from that moment.”

She continued to work for the police, rising to the rank of detective inspector, as well as competing as a wheelchair athlete internationally.

To train for her latest challenge which is set to take place on 16 August, Ms Craig, who now lives in London, has been swimming off the coast of Fishguard, Pembrokeshire.

Her regime has involved swimming for 90 minutes, before a break and another hour’s swimming, all in water under 16C.

She said: “I’m hoping that the preparation is tougher than the actual swim, because the preparation has been tough.”

Each of the team of six will swim for an hour each at a time.

She added: “Obviously you’re there on the boat for five hours, potentially being sick, potentially feeling really bad, with the possibility of being woken up in the middle of the night to be told you’re in next.

“So it is going to be really, really tough, but if you’re going to do a challenge then you may as well make it tough, I guess.

“Open water swimming is just fantastic. It’s fantastic for everybody, but I think as a wheelchair user… to be completely out in the water with nothing around you is just this amazing feeling as well.”

Her sister Sue Evans said Ms Craig was “very resilient and determined”.

She said: “She never gives up on anything at all. Anything she does, she’s got to do really well at. I wouldn’t get in the sea at this time of year anyway, but for her to swim the Channel is pretty amazing.”

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