Paralympic selection for swimmer Ryan Crouch is just the beginning of international adventure

Ryan Crouch during the ParalympicsGB Swimming Team Announcement at Manchester Aquatics Centre. Photo

Ryan Crouch during the ParalympicsGB Swimming Team Announcement at Manchester Aquatics Centre. Photo: Barringtom Coombs/PA Wire - Credit: PA WIRE

They say the biggest mark of a top sportsman or woman is how they respond to setbacks.

And when Ryan Crouch was forced to stop swimming towards the end of 2014 he must have doubted whether his chance to feature in a major competition would ever come around.

But despite the health setbacks that got him out of the pool he is now on the verge of an eagerly anticipated debut at the Paralympic Games.

In April 2015 Crouch was able to return to the pool – less than a year before trials for the Games were held in Glasgow.

But rapid progress during his self-coached training sessions at Ipswich’s Crown Pools and the London Aquatics Centre convinced Crouch, from Manningtree, the Paralympics could be on the cards.

“In September I was moving forward and decided to go for Rio,” he explained.

“September-time I knew I was training well and improving but it wasn’t until December when we have Nationals I really moved my 50metre freestyle personal best (PB) on there.”

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Crouch has mild cerebral palsy and competes in the S9 category for freestyle, backstroke and butterfly.

The International Paralympic Committee describes the classification as being for swimmers with “for example, joint restrictions in one leg or with double below-the-knee amputations”.

Crouch, who is 22-years-old and has been swimming for 11 years, was 0.29seconds outside the 50m freestyle qualifying time when he went to Glasgow.

“I had been back in the water and up to speed and was selected for the Cerebral Palsy World Games,” he said of the run-up to the competition. “I couldn’t say no, it was such a good opportunity. Off the back of that, I knew I could move on and see what happened.”

Crouch’s confidence was not out of place; in the Glasgow heats he swam 26.37secs – to qualify he needed 26.49secs. He then did it again in the final, finishing in 26.43secs.

“It was really nice to back up what I did in the morning,” he said.

The following week Crouch was emailed and told his name would be going forward for Rio selection.

And at a special training camp in Manchester in May he was given the good news – there was a seat on the plane for him.

“It was such a surreal feeling,” Crouch said. “It still is to be honest.

“Just being able to call my parents and tell them and my nan, I wanted them to be the first people to know and that’s when it hit me.

“Since I have been back I have been training hard and working harder.

“Hopefully I’m training well but I’m really looking forward to representing my country for the first time at a major competition.”

Crouch is definitely competing in the 50m freestyle thanks to his swim in Glasgow, but will also be featuring in other events.

Because he was within 2% of the 100m freestyle qualifying time he has also been selected for that, while he hopes an appearance in the 100m backstroke and a relay may also be offered to him.

And what of medals?

“I have always said I will take every day as it comes,” Crouch said. “A lot of people have asked me that and I’m really pleased my first major competition is actually the biggest one.

“But off the back of Rio I will be looking to try and qualify for worlds, the Commonwealth Games and European Championships.

“I’m really looking forward to it, to taking my swimming game to the rest of the world. That really inspires me.”

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