Tuesday, 09 August 2022

Boy, 16, wins race that inspired him to swim

A TEENAGER from Peppard has won the open-water swimming race that inspired him to take up the sport — at the sixth attempt.

A TEENAGER from Peppard has won the open-water swimming race that inspired him to take up the sport — at the sixth attempt.

Henry Bell, 16, had to swim a mile across the Camel estuary in Cornwall for the annual Padstow to Rock swim.

He finished ahead of the 361 other competitors in a time of 14 minutes and 40 seconds.

Henry first took part in the annual race in 2011, a year after watching triathlete Nigel Downing, who also lives in Peppard, finish fifth and saying he wanted to try it.

He finished 12th in a time of about 25 minutes that year and two years later came seventh out of 200 participants and was awarded the Sarah Hawkins Trophy for being the only child to compete in the elite category. This year he not only won the race but is thought to have set a record time.

Henry said: “It was unbelievable when I won the race. I had done so much training, so it was a great achievement.”

The teenager, a former pupil of Sonning Common Primary School who now attends Lord Williams’s School in Thame, was greeted at the finish by his mother Rebecca Bell and sister Helena, 19.

Mrs Bell, of Blounts Court Road, said: “When they were coming across there were two of them at the front and I couldn’t see if Henry was ahead. When they come out of the water they have to run up a gangway and I told him to run like hell. It was an incredibly fantastic moment to see him win.”

Henry, who was trained in open water swimming by Mr Downing, has also completed all the Henley Swim events on the River Thames this year.

He won a silver medal in the junior men’s category of the Henley Classic and came third in the Club to Pub race.

He also completed the Bridge to Bridge Thames Marathon, a 14km swim from Leander Club in Henley to Marlow Bridge, in just under three hours, finishing 13th in a men’s category. Last year, he was unable to complete thisrace.

He said: “It’s a challenging event. Last year I got half way but then my arm went funny. This year I felt more awake and ready to go when I started. When I got up that morning I had a lot of energy.”

Henry competes for Thame Swimming Club and is coached by Sherri Cozier and Simon Haarburger.

Mrs Bell added: “Henry has got stamina and speed so he can do different types of swimming.

“We are looking to try to get him into regional and national competitions next year.”

Henry’s father Robert said: “He has to join the Amateur Swimming Association, then all his times from the events are officially clocked. That means he can qualify for national events.”

One day Henry hopes to swim the Channel.

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