Bolton-based Special Olympics Great Britain athlete Martin Trundle is gearing up for one of the biggest events in the British Open Water Swimming calendar, by participating in the Aquasphere Chillswim Coniston 5.25 Miles End to End.

Thirty-one-year-old Martin will tackle the 5.25-mile swim at Coniston Water in the Lake District, on Saturday 22 June, to raise funds for his club, Cheshire Penguins, which provides swimming opportunities for people of all ages with intellectual disabilities.

Swimming makes me happy. I love being in the water and it’s even better when I can also do it outdoors in the fresh air.
By Martin Trundle, Cheshire Penguins athelte

Martin, who is autistic and has a learning disability in addition to being visually impaired, has been a Cheshire Penguins member since 2013 and he started open water swimming around seven years ago.

“He started swimming at school and took to it like a duck to water,” says Martin’s Dad, Sean Trundle.

“It gave him a new sense of freedom and he’s been swimming three or four times a week since.”

The swimming journey took shape for Martin when he was competing in a school gala.

 “I was introduced to John Bailey, who is the father of Dame Sarah Storey,” said Sean. “He said that Martin was a talented swimmer and he recommended that he join the visually impaired swimming pathway.

“Following that, he joined Radcliffe Swimming Club, as a visually impaired swimmer, and started competing in regional galas.

“Then at a gala at Ponds Forge International Sports Centre, in Sheffield, we met the Cheshire Penguins club, which is part of the Special Olympics movement. The opportunities grew and he was competing for them in a gala in Reading within a week.”

Special Olympics Great Britain uses the power of sport to transform the lives of children and adults with intellectual disabilities. It is the UK’s biggest provider of sports training and competition for people with intellectual disabilities, who can benefit from sporting opportunities at 98 accredited clubs across the country.

“Martin joined Cheshire Penguins in 2013 and he soon got the opportunity to try open water swimming as well, which he did at Manley Mere, near Frodsham,” said Sean.

“We didn’t think that he would like the cold, and the neck of the wetsuit that he borrowed also looked a little uncomfortable, but he loved it. He also saw it as more swim time, so we bought a wetsuit the next week and he started getting in the cold water more often.”

Martin’s swimming sadly ground to a halt during the covid pandemic.

“He was so frustrated with lockdown as he had been robbed of his main passion, swimming,” added Sean. “All of the pools were closed, but things changed when he had the opportunity to get in the open water lakes.

“The waters were very cold, so we took plenty of blankets and a large hot water flask, but it was like seeing a huge weight lifted from his shoulders when he could get back into Manley Mere. It changed his mood completely and Martin developed an even bigger passion for open water swimming from the pandemic experience.

“He still enjoys competing in the occasional gala, but the open water season has become such a big focus for the last four years.

“As part of this, Martin is always looking at different challenges that he can take on, hence why he’s building up to the 5.25-mile end-to-end ChillSwim at Coniston. He did a 3.8km swim there last summer, in addition to the same distance in Derwentwater, Ullswater, and a one-mile swim in Lake Windermere.

“Thanks to the support of his coaches at Horwich Swimming Club, Martin has also been able to get some training sessions at Salford Quays with David Quartermain, who is an open water swimming legend in this country, having done so much to develop the sport in the 1990s.

“Swimming is such a big part of Martin’s life and he would love to represent his country at a Special Olympics World Games one day. He was a reserve for last year’s World Games in Berlin, but he would love to be part of the squad in the future, even more so if he could compete in the open water category.

“However, for now he’s firmly focused on the open water season and is very excited at the upcoming challenge of swimming Coniston Water end-to-end. Hopefully he can raise some funds for Cheshire Penguins in the process.”

To support Martin and his fundraising for Cheshire Penguins through his 5.25-mile swim, please click here.