SWIMMER Jo Blount hopes to take a step closer to crossing the Channel solo as part of a charity relay event from Dover to Calais this summer.
The 28-year-old, a commercial officer at Cranfield University, was a competitive swimmer for her county and club in Derbyshire as a teenager, which planted the seed in her mind.
Jo has lived in Swindon for seven years, currently in Callington Road, and for much of that period she searched for Channel relay events, picking out one such event for spinal injury charity Aspire last September.
“I have always been a bit of a swimmer and it was the challenge of the Channel which excited me,” she said.
“I would have loved to do a solo crossing, but as an initial entry into Channel swimming, this was the sensible one to go with.
“There are only so many people that will do relays, and I didn’t want to do it off my own back. I wanted to raise money for something.”
Jo landed on Aspire, which offers practical support to the 40,000 people living with a spinal cord injury in the UK, after an inspiring visit to its national training centre in Stanmore, Middlesex.
On a visit to the centre, which offers a range of fitness solutions for disabled people, Jo met Paula, a promising triathlete in her youth, who had been hit by a car and injured her back. After support from Aspire, Paula ran the London Marathon in a faster time than she had ever done as an able-bodied runner, which sealed the deal for Jo.
After getting the green light from Aspire following a selection day in November, Jo became one of six swimmers from across the country who will take on the relay.
With a provisional start date of July 1, Jo and her teammates will swim for an hour each before swapping continuously until they hit French soil. She expects three turns for each swimmer.
“I have been able to get a bit of holiday for this, my boss is very understanding,” said Jo.
“It’s not as great as you might think though, I get one half-day a week, and Wednesday’s was spent swimming for 10 kilometres.”
Inspiration will be key for Jo and her teammates, which might prove all the more important in the rough seas of the Channel and the absence of a wet suit to keep her warm.
“During training there have been one or two moments where I have had enough and wanted to get out the pool, but you have an argument with yourself and you stick at it,” she said.
“I have been around the centre in Middlesex and saw things like children being given swimming lessons and memories like that will remind me why I am doing this.”
Jo is aiming to raise £1,750. She has already reached £643 and has plans for many more fundraising events ahead of the swim. To keep up to date with her progress, visit www.justgiving.com/jo-blount.