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A MELKSHAM lad was last week joined in the pool by a Paralympic gold medallist as he swam the final lengths of his channel swim challenge which has raised over £700 for charity.
Ten-year-old Ciaran Hanks will soon have raised more than £700 for Wiltshire Air Ambulance, by swimming the width of the English Channel – 35.18km – since August. Ciaran, who suffers from asthma and could not swim a length until this year, completed the challenge by swimming the final 32 lengths at Trowbridge pool last week. Paralympic gold medal swimmer Stephanie Millward joined him for the grand finale.
Ciaran told Melksham News, “The last session was exhausting but it feels really good to have finished. I really enjoyed having Steph come to swim with me, and she helped me with my backstroke afterwards. It’s one of my weakest and she won gold in it, so there was no better opportunity to get some tips! When I started the challenge I wanted to do it by Christmas; I didn’t expect to finish this quickly. It was hard but I find swimming really relaxing now and I will keep doing it in the future.
“I’m happy with the money I raised, too. My dream target was £500 but my parents thought that was too much so we set a target of £100. I hoped that a few people would donate but didn’t think I’d raise so much. The air ambulance is a good cause because it saves lives and you never know when you might need it.”
Steph Millward, who trains in Corsham, won two gold medals at the Rio Paralympics this summer. She won gold with the 4x100m relay team and on her own in the 100m backstroke; an event in which she holds the world record. Steph competes in category S8 and has multiple sclerosis.
Steph said, “I saw Ciaran’s challenge online and was so impressed. That he’s gone out of his way to practise his swimming and do it for charity like this is absolutely heartwarming.
“I got in touch with the family and offered to swim the last few lengths with him; I think what he’s done is incredible.”
Ciaran’s mum Caroline spoke of her pride in her son and her gratitude for people’s generosity.
“We’re absolutely over the moon; what Ciaran has achieved is phenomenal. At the start we thought it was a long way to swim and he’d never swam that far before, but he’s totally blown us away.
“There wasn’t a day when he was nervous or down about it and he was so motivated. People were so kind with their comments on Facebook and donations and that really kept him going.
“It’s helped a lot with his asthma and with his self-confidence; he says swimming is his ‘me’ time now! It’s brilliant to see how far he’s come – he’s not your average ten year old!
“It was so nice of Steph to join him for the final stretch, too; they had a lane in the pool to themselves and she had all the time in the world for him. We’re so grateful to everyone for their support and donations.”
Ciaran’s fundraiser is still going and people can donate online at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/CiaransChannelSwim