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Michelle Weltman on swimming with a disability and coaching Alex Brooker

What’s more impressive than someone swimming two miles in open water? Someone with a disability completing the same impressive challenge.

Although London Marathon Events’ Para Athlete Lead, Michelle Weltman, who recently coached co-host of The Last Leg, Alex Brooker, for Channel 4’s Sink or Swim charity swim across the English Channel, doesn’t necessarily agree.

“I look at the ability of any swimmer, assess what they are doing in the water and then we work together to improve their stroke, body position and how they move," she said. "I don’t believe it’s any different when coaching a disabled swimmer.”

At London Marathon Events, Michelle works closely with para athletes and participants across cycling and running, although her passion is swimming.

Michelle has coached four swimmers to six Paralympic Games and is also the head coach of the biggest LGBTQ+ swimming club in the UK, Out To Swim.

For Children with Cancer UK Swim Serpentine, Michelle works closely with all para participants in the lead up to the event and manages a team of staff on the day who ensure that all para swimmers are fully supported and have a positive experience in and out of water.

“Michelle is a fantastic coach. She knew how to get the best out of my body... I loved working with her."

-Alex Brooker

Coaching Alex Brooker

Michelle recently coached Brooker (35) who was born with hand and arm deformities and a twisted right leg which had to be amputated when he was a baby.

She worked closely with Alex as he underwent a 12-week challenge to train for a relay swim across the English Channel in support of Stand Up To Cancer for Channel 4’s reality TV show, Sink or Swim.

“Michelle is a fantastic coach,” Brooker said. “She knew how to get the best out of my body despite my disabilities and helped me adjust my technique accordingly. I loved working with her and enjoyed our lessons despite them being quite tough at times”

Michelle added: “I love the fact that I can make a difference to people’s lives on a daily basis and I can help change people’s perspectives of themselves and what they are able to achieve.

“When I first met Alex, he could swim a bit on his back but in order to cross the English Channel, he really needed to learn to swim on his front. We started by working on how to breathe in the water.

“Once he got better at that then I could begin to teach him the swimming. With someone like Alex it’s really important to look at how he can be more efficient in the water.

“The biggest challenge was in building his confidence and then looking at what he can do when he gets tired.”

Can anyone learn to swim? 

According to Michelle: yes!

“Get to your local pool find out what lessons they have and then go for it," she said. 'Don’t allow your own view of your disability to stop you from trying.”

Set yourself the challenge and register your interest to take on the Children with Cancer UK Swim Serpentine in 2020.

You can watch Sink or Swim now on All 4.