9-year-old Cuckfield swimmer battles adversity to win award

A nine-year-old swimmer who has had a rare medical condition and used to be afraid of the water has won a top swimming prize.

Sophie Bush, from Cuckfield, received the award, presented by Olympic gold medallist Duncan Goodhew, at this year’s Southern Water Learn to Swim Achiever Awards at Mountbatten Leisure Centre, Portsmouth, on July 13.

The awards are given to children who have shown great courage in overcoming particular difficulties or for exceptional performance.

Sophie has a rare medical condition that affects the mobility of her legs and has had several operations and surgery for a cleft palate over the years.

Sophie’s mum, Samantha, said when she first tried to get Sophie to swim ‘she screamed for a long time’ as she was scared of the water.

Samantha said: “When she stands she holds a walking frame, in water she can’t rely on it so it’s quite a big deal,

“It took about a year for her to get over her fear, it was a struggle, now she can do six or seven lengths on her own.”

Sophie uses her motto ‘never give up’ when she faces adversity.

Samantha continued: “She always says it, ‘never give up’, she’s done amazingly.

“I’m proud, very proud, she’s had many obstacles in life and this is another one she’s succeeded with, she’s had a few operations in the past but she’s come a long way.”

Sophie has her swimming lessons at K2 in Crawley.

“It’s down to the teachers patience, they built up her faith and trust,” Samantha said.

“And swimming is really good physio for her.”

Sophie’s swimming teacher Jennie Thomas said: “Sophie is a young lady who has overcome many obstacles.

“She has had many operations and has come back fighting with determination to succeed, despite it not being an easy journey.”

Sophie is one of a select few of the 38,000 children taught on the scheme this year to have been nominated.

“When she started swimming two years ago, she hated the water but thanks to her ‘never give up’ philosophy she’s now a strong, confident swimmer,” Jennie added.

“She has persevered and is an inspiration to us all. Well done Sophie.”

Each year, the pools and clubs that take part in Southern Water’s Learn to Swim scheme are invited to nominate one child to receive an Achiever of the Year award.

Olympic gold medallist and ambassador of the Southern Water Learn to Swim scheme Duncan Goodhew said: “We are here to celebrate the most committed swimmers, the best examples of courage – the award winners have either overcome something or are showing great tenacity and talent.

“These children have put Olympic effort and Olympic courage into swimming. What a great day.”

Sophie’s mum added that Sophie had an amazing time, “She’s made us all very proud,” she said.

n Learn to Swim supports lessons at 85 pools and clubs across the region and has helped teach more than 600,000 children to swim since it began in 1992.It is sponsored by Southern Water suppliers Barhale Trant Utilities, Clancy Docwra, Morrison Utility Services and 4Delivery.

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