Over £1k raised from charity swim

James Birchnall, 15, swam the equivalent of the English Channel  (w110628-10b)
James Birchnall, 15, swam the equivalent of the English Channel (w110628-10b)

IT took less than seven hours for disabled teen James Birchnall to swim 35.8km – the equivalent of the English Channel.

The Portland pupil raised more than £1,000 for Cerebral Palsy Sport, a charity he has been swimming with for the past seven years.

Friends and family were there to keep him going through all 1,432 lengths of the University of Nottingham 25-metre pool, on Sunday.

Speaking after the mammoth challenge, James was understandably tired, but has now set his sights on swimming the Channel.

“Once I got into it, it didn’t seem too bad, though, there was a point after two hours I came out and they said I had only done 300 lengths,” the 15-year-old said.

“It felt like a lot more.”

“I want to swim the actual Channel now, my mum said if I could do the distance in the pool then she would allow me to do the real thing.”

He added: “That is my dream.”

He began the task seven days before, however, a chest infection halted his progress and he was off school for the week before taking the plunge again.

James, who suffers from cerebral palsy, has no kick in his legs, which made his already huge challenge a much tougher one.

He has represented England and scooped four gold medals from a possible five at the Cerebral Palsy Sport’s National Swimming Championships on 19th June.

He won 50m and 100m backstroke, 50m and 200m freestyle events, but was disqualified for going before the gun on the 100m freestyle.

Paralympic gold medalist Liz Johnson supported he efforts and was at his first attempt to give his challenge hopes a boost.

The money raised will go towards funding the charity’s expenses to compete at the European Championships in Portugal, in two years time.

He said the charity had done a lot for him: “They are great, they have been very supportive and invite me to all sorts of things.”

“They set my training for different muscles we would not normally use.”

Some money will also be distributed to Notts Nova Disability Squad, with who he has been swimming with for five years.

His mum Christine said she was very proud of him and his younger brother Jordan, 13, who completed over five miles.

“They impressed me more than anything. I was overwhelmed by the support he got from the other kids doing it with him.”

“You can’t swim the Channel until you are 16, but he’s done very well so far,” she added.