Freak pool accident sparks investigation

AN OLYMPIC swimming hopeful for the London 2012 games has told how he was inches away from a career-threatening injury after training at a newly opened Suffolk pool.

AN OLYMPIC swimming hopeful for the London 2012 games has told how he was inches away from a career-threatening injury after training at a newly opened Suffolk pool.

Chris Walker-Hebborn was left with deep and gaping wounds to both ankles, needing seven stitches, after taking part in a warm up at the Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre pool.

But the 15-year-old, one of the country's brightest young stars, said he was fortunate the injuries were not more serious after slashing his legs on the metal edge of the pool while completing a turn.

Leisure centre bosses have now pledged a full investigation.


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His mother Louise, a coach with the West Suffolk Swimming Club, said: “Fortunately the injury was just low enough – an inch higher and the metal would have gone straight through the tendon.

“It was when he crawled out, you realised there was a big problem because of the depth of the wounds.

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“There was also blood everywhere so you quickly realised this was a bad wound. The whole thing was shocking.

“The metal is very sharp. Chris is an experienced swimmer and you wouldn't expect that sort of injury. I was also surprised that the pool remained open – but that is not my decision.”

Recalling the incident, Chris said: “I went up the first length and did my normal turn. I slightly mistimed it though and caught my heels on the metal ledge at the end.

“I was in a lot of pain, but I slowly made my way back to the end, where I got out and saw blood coming from both my ankles – I could hardly walk.”

Chris, a pupil at the town's King Edward VI School, now faces a race against time to be fit for the British Long Course Championships in Sheffield next month .

But the family refused to let the incident sour Chris' swimming hopes after he was accepted on a boarding scholarship at the prestigious Kelly College in Tavistock.

Mrs Walker-Hebborn said: “The aim is to combine education with swimming and get Chris to the next level, which is on the international stage.

“The progress he is making means he is already on course for a semi-final spot in the Olympics – we now want to make that a place in the final.”

A spokesman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which owns the centre, said: "We wish Chris a speedy recovery following his injury.

“The new pool bulkhead has a chamfered edge and is one of 90 similar installations, regularly used by competitive and leisure swimmers, installed worldwide by our specialist contractor.

“We have been advised by them that this is the first such accident with this type of installation. The accident was reported immediately and we will be carrying out a detailed investigation, including an assessment about whether any change to the bulkhead needs to be made.”

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