Students are inspired after visit from world champion swimmer in Lowestoft

Athlete Fran Williamson with youngsters at Ormiston Denes Academy.

Athlete Fran Williamson with youngsters at Ormiston Denes Academy. - Credit: Nick Butcher

'Don't give up' - that was the message from Paralympic medallist and five-time world championship winning swimmer Fran Williamson as she visited Lowestoft to give an inspirational talk about her success.

Pictures: Nick Butcher

Pictures: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Ms Williamson visited Ormiston Denes Academy in Yarmouth Road, Lowestoft as part of her role as an athlete mentor for Sky Sports Living for Sport.

Students heard how the athlete, who has athetoid cerebral palsy, battled against a series of negative comments and feedback while she was at school to go to astounding success - even though she was at first afraid of the water and allergic to chlorine.

Even though she could not swim until she was 12 years old, she went on to break a world record a year after taking up the sport, taking medication every time she entered the pool to help deal with her allergy.

And her achievements do not end outside of the pool - Ms Williamson has also received a First Class Honours degree in social policy, as well as a Master's degree and also a Doctorate.

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'Students need to keep going, don't give up and don't listen to negative comments,' said Ms Williamson, who has now retired from competing after 10 years representing Great Britain.

'As I said in my story, I got a lot of negative comments when I was at school and I ended up giving up. It wasn't until I got older it was I realised I shouldn't have done that.

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'I have an education now, I didn't before. I talk to a lot of secondary school kids and I am thinking I wish I could do it again. Everyone says that but I genuinely do.

'If I can get a First Class degree, I am pretty sure I could have done well in my GCSEs.'

She said her highlight was winning five world championship gold medals - but said the travelling to exotic locations like Argentina, China and Australia 'really isn't as glamorous as you think', as she spent most of the time in the pool rather than out sightseeing.

Paige Westoby, teacher of PE said: 'Fran's talk was inspirational and the students were gripped by her story which was lovely to see. It is great to have a role model the students can look up to. Things don't always go to plan but you can turn it around and achieve in life, Fran has shown us that.'

Student Joey Clarke, 13, said: 'I thought it was interesting that she was told not to swim and ended up doing really well. It inspires us to do things.'

Bryony Creedon-Jay, 13, added: I admire how she was dedicated to her work and how she never gave up. She just went out there ignored the doctors and said I want to win this for my country. It really motivates us not to give up on anything.'

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