Hello, my name is Ramin. I have vision impairment in both eyes and live with my wonderful guide dog, Felix. Last week, one of the volunteers shared her experience as a sighted swimmer, and today, you’ll see my perspective on getting back to swimming!
Life in recent months
The lockdown has been particularly challenging for visually-impaired people as adhering to the social distancing and navigating safely around the one-way system in most public places requires a high level of visual coordination.
I have practised yoga at home during this time and always longed for getting back in the water. With the reopening of public pools recently I was hoping that our regular WeSwim sessions would reconvene, but unfortunately, this wasn’t possible due to restrictions at our regular club pool. I, therefore, initiated the discussion with Tash, the Director at WeSwim, about doing one-to-one swimming sessions at other pools. She teamed me up with Magali who is a sighted volunteer and also a synchronised swimmer from France.
The first session: getting back into the water
I was so excited to get in the water but also a little nervous as I didn’t even know if I would still remember the swimming techniques. I was also a little apprehensive as I hadn’t used that pool previously. Luckily, there was an accessible changing area and the layout was easy to navigate. Magali and I took a tour around the venue before we started swimming so I could familiarise myself and avoid possible risks. It took a little while to get used to the new pool layout which is now divided into a fast lane and a slow lane but the thrill of touching the water in the pool after so many months away was so magical. During our first visit to the pool, we forgot to count our laps but felt I had done more exercise in a one-hour session than the entire lockdown period!
The following sessions: enhancing our techniques
Since our first visit, we have swum together on a weekly basis. We now have a system that is working perfectly fine with my vision impairment: Magali would swim ahead of me and she would tap on my forearm if I need to veer to the right to avoid colliding with a slow swimmer ahead of me. We would then shuffle across and swim back to the other side of the pool where we started. The fact that Magali is a highly competent swimmer is of great help as she can manoeuvrer herself in the water with ease. After the session is over, we meet again after getting changed and make our way to the reception to collect Felix who is deservedly spoiled by the reception staff. We usually take a coffee break at a local café and have a chat and laugh which is a great way to end our swim sessions.
Our latest session: challenging ourselves
Magali and I managed to swim 2.5 km in just over an hour. For me, it felt like an achievement and I am definitely proud of our teamwork. We are also planning to take part in a fundraising event with Swimathon to support the charities and our much-loved WeSwim club. I am sure we’ll report back on this new challenge when we have more updates, so please stay tuned for more exciting news about our new ventures in promoting disability sports and swimming in particular!
I am ever so grateful for Tash for tirelessly providing support for disabled swimmers in London. The club has been an essential part of my well-being, and also as a place where you could meet and socialise with other swimmers and volunteers. I am also thankful to Magali who selflessly takes the time out of her day to support me in the pool. I would encourage swimmers to get back to swimming if they can!