06 December 2021
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

Bradshaw and team swim the Channel to secure her 19th World Swimming Record

September 24, 2010

Dr Julie Bradshaw and her team of brave swimmers took to the chilly waters of the English Channel on Saturday and nabbed Bradshaw her 19th World Swimming Record.  The relay was the first of its kind with each member swimming  one of the four strokes, frontcrawl, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly.

Medley-relay-2010-Channel-0The idea for this relay had struck Bradshaw back in 2008 but could be forgiven for thinking this day would never come.  In 2008 she contracted fish tank granuloma, a rare and debilitating infection that led one doctor to believe her swimming days were over.  Refusing to live a life sans water, Bradshaw rescheduled the race for autumn 2009 and set about building her strength back up and by September she was rearing to go.

The drama didn’t end there, however, and rain and gail force winds postponed it for another year and this time it all went swimmingly…bad pun, I know.  Team mate, Susan Ractcliffe, got things started stepping into the water at Shakespeare Beach, Dover, and beginning the arduous task of swimming backstroke.  Staying in a straight line can be difficult at the best of times let alone when you have nothing but moving clouds to look and waves that like to pull you left right and centre. We are assured, however, that Ractcliffe managed to stay straight and was even uttering ‘jovial’ words as she swam along!

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Despite the sun making the odd appearance, the air temperature was extremely cold and an overnight frost gave that extra bite.  Needless to say, the swimmers were clad in a lot of layers before having to peel them off and glide bravely into the water.  Peter May was next to take over and spent a trouble free hour swimming breastroke joining the tankers that were out doing a Saturday’s trade – the English Channel is the busiest shipping lane in the world after all!

Bradshaw was back doing her favourite stroke, the butterfly. Despite being renowned as the hardest stroke, Bradshaw was enjoying the ride, it bringing back memories of her last world record solo Channel swim in 2002 which she has also completed doing butterfly.

Being part of a relay is all about the teamwork; “Coming up at the end of each hour, it is ‘lovely’ to know your hour is nearly done as the following swimmer comes on the deck of the boat, clad in their swimming gear.  For me, I call this one of the nicest sights on the swim!”.  I don’t blame her.

This heavenly vision came in the form of Kim Owen, who took over from Bradshaw and completed the final leg of the relay in her first ever Channel swim.  As the day wore on, each of the team did another two swims, the highlight for Bradshaw being the last butterfly stint and swimming past Cap Gris Nez; “It brought back memories not just of my butterfly solo Channel swim, but of my first swim over 31 years ago when on 19th August 1979 I had become the fasted British Junior (aged 15) to complete a solo swim of the Channel”.

As the team finally set foot on solid ground again, 11 hours 29 minutes after they started, they had set a new World Record, a first for a medley relay.  Bradshaw has told us to “watch this space” – perhaps she’s looking to leave adolescence and go for her 20th record…

Kirsty Page, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

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