Spotlight On... Swimming

Roan Brennan

It’s a Paralympic summer, but don’t just watch the sports, try them! 

Parasport's Spotlight On… series offers a quick glimpse into the world of a Paralympic sport – the thoughts, feelings, emotions and behind the scenes details that may be hidden to the outside world.  

In the next part of the series, we spoke to teenage swimming sensation Roan Brennan, who competes on the Swim England Para Swim Talent programme and dreams of winning gold at the Paralympics. 

Swimming has been contested at every Paralympics since the first Games in 1960, and is it one of the largest sports in terms of events, competitors and spectators. It is set to thrill fans once again in Tokyo this summer. 

Roan, a rising star at Basildon Phoenix Swimming Club, told us all about his journey into swimming, and what fuels his passion for the sport. 

Tell us about how you got into swimming and your progression to where you are today? 

“I got into swimming after my brother, who had been taking swimming lessons for some time, said I would enjoy the learn-to-swim program. My parents also thought learning to swim was a valuable skill I would need in life so they threw me into it, not literally! 

“After learn-to-swim I was offered a place in the club squads and then I went from there, moving clubs along the way. I slowly increased the amount and length of the training sessions, up until 2018, when I made it to my first Swim England nationals. 

“Since then I’ve been to two English nationals, winning bronze in the 100m butterfly at my second nationals after achieving a final place in the 400m freestyle at my first British nationals. 

“I was selected by Swim England for their Junior Development pathway in October 2017 when I was 11 years old, and I have been fortunate to be selected for their pathway programmes every year since. 

“In September 2018 I was selected for the British Para Swimming Academy squad, which was a huge personal achievement.” 

Why swimming over other sports? 

“When I first started competing I felt swimming was a sport I could do well in, and be as good as my peers. That hadn’t been the case before with running or football where I was somewhat slower than my friends in school due to my physical restrictions. 

“I think as I’ve progressed I’ve realised swimming also gives me a sense of freedom and relaxation that I’ve never felt with other sports. Swimming also has many health benefits as it works all muscles in the body and is great for your cardiovascular system. 

“You also meet lots of new people and make friends from all sorts of places, not only around the UK but around the world, when competing in international competitions.” 

What’s the one thing you now know, that you wish you’d known before getting started in the sport? 

“Winning isn’t everything. When I was younger, I used to get so downhearted about not getting a medal or winning a race, but now I know it’s about the progression and what you learn and change in order to win or achieve a medal in an event.” 

What’s been your favourite memory in the sport so far? 

“I’d have to say my bronze medal at Swim England nationals in 2019. I went into the race not particularly confident, so to get a medal was so surprising. Those moments are why I swim.” 

What’s the best thing about swimming? 

“Probably competing and racing - I think that’s why most people swim. It’s the best feeling in the world when you have a good race, especially at big competitions.” 

What’s something only a swimmer would know or appreciate? 

“One thing swimmers appreciate more than anyone else is sleep. Being woken up at 4.30am several times a week to train from 5.30-7am honestly takes its toll, and sleep is vital. Nothing beats a Saturday weekend lie-in!” 

What would you say to someone considering trying swimming? 

“I’d say literally just go for it. The pool can seem like a scary place, but the key is just to have fun and enjoy yourself because swimming can be mentally and physically rewarding.” 

Gain an insight into the world of other Paralympic sports by visiting our Spotlight On… series hub page here.

Want to give swimming a try? Check out our club finder!