When I first saw George Henshaw swimming, he was just like every other youngster in the pool of his age.
Great enthusiasm in the water and smiling and joking on the side with his pals, with a few techniques to work on.
The only difference was his father on poolside giving him physio before and after a race or during a training session for Belper Marlin Swimming Club. It was then I identified that he had a disability in one arm. This, however, has not stopped him competing as a Belper Marlin.
George has right arm Erb’s Palsy, which means that he has little arm and no hand movement due to a trauma during birth. He stated: “I rely on my left arm and hand and have to overcome being unbalanced in the water”.
When he was four months old, he had a big operation to remove nerves from the back of his legs and implant them into his shoulder to improve the his arm movement. Regular physio and swimming are an essential part of George’s routine.
At present, George, 11, has competed in the National Junior Disability Championships, at Ponds Forge in Sheffield, cutting his personal best times by large margins. There are some good disabled swimmers nationally but there are different degrees of disability and the system to address these is very complicated and will not help George until further classification takes place.
George trains three times a week and enjoys being a Belper Marlin and being part of the team. His dad found himself spending a lot of time at the pool, so it was suggested he qualify as a coach to make his attendance on poolside official. Now he helps with the other coaches. “It helps a lot but it is a bit strange having your dad as a coach”.
Belper Marlin encourages swimmers with disabilities and George is a shining example of how a squad which shares the same ethos can all work and achieve together.