Swimming: Fern, 13, makes a splash in Paralympic bid

Fern Sneddon, a member of Tunbridge Wells’ RTW Monson club, has been picked by the England Development Programme and the British Academy squad.

She has hypochondroplasia, also known as dwarfism, the same condition that swimming legend Ellie Simmonds has.

Competing in the S6 category, she has a prolific record in the sport, and has won six gold medals in the Para-swimming Championships in Manchester this year.

She also won four golds and a silver at the national junior event, and six golds and a silver at the Kent County Championships.

Most recently, Fern has collected a further three gold medals at the National Summer meeting in Sheffield.

Her crowning achievement also came this summer when she won gold as the country’s top junior 50 metres freestyle swimmer.

She managed this at Glasgow in the British International Para-swimming meet, where she competed in all five finals of her events.

Fern has been with the Monson Swimming Club in Tunbridge Wells since the age of five, having watched her brother Leo in action there.

‘We are so proud of Fern’s achievements, she turns up to every training session with a smile – even with an increasing amount of pain’

Then in 2013 she met Ms Simmonds and was inspired to obtain classification two years later. Since then she has gone from strength to strength.

Fern said: “I love swimming, and I have made a lot of friends at the club and with other para-swimmers.

She added: “I feel like I can escape everything in the water.”

Her mother Sharon said: “I feel very proud when I watch Fern compete and see how much she has progressed.

“I also love watching her friendships develop with so many inspiring young people.”

Fern trains up to six times a week and travels around the country at weekends to attend galas and training days for her para-swimming programmes.

But Sharon said: “It has not all been plain sailing for Fern, though.

“She is currently on the waiting list for lumbar decompression surgery and spinal fixation at Great Ormond Street.

“Standing for any length of time and walking short distances cause her lower back to spasm and her legs to go numb.

“The pain has worsened over the last year and although Fern’s coaches have been very supportive with adapting her training, sometimes she has to get out of the pool when it becomes too much.”

The next objective is to gain an International classification – the first step on her journey to reach her ultimate goal, competing at the Paralympics.

Head coach Graham Bassi said: “Fern is a much-loved member of our Monson family and an inspiration to us all.

“She has been working very hard with her coach Della Clout for several years now.

“We will continue to support Fern as best we can to fulfil her dreams and potential.”

Della commented: “We are so proud of Fern’s achievements, she turns up to every training session with a smile, even with an increasing amount of pain and has therefore an increase of stretch and preparation, assisted by the British Programmes’s physio.

“Her commitment and dedication are helped by her supportive family. The programme takes her all over the country to compete and train.”

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