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‘Swimming Saved My Life’

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Pete Holloway from Swansea didn’t learn to swim until he was 75 years old. Now he credits his favourite form of exercise for saving his life.

When Pete took up swimming in 2015, he was 75 years old and trained three times a week with Swansea Masters Club at Wales National Pool in Swansea. He also enjoyed swimming during public sessions using the Free Swimming Initiative offered by Welsh Government. Before long Pete was competing at the Swim Wales Masters Long Course and Short Course Championships in all the freestyle events.

In March 2019 when he was 79, Pete had a heart attack. He explains what happened:

“At the time it didn’t even think I could be having a heart attack. I thought I had heartburn. I was taken into hospital for surgery where I had a triple bypass and I was fitted with a pacemaker. It was a very frightening time. Everything seemed so uncertain. I spent almost three months in hospital after my heart attack, and when I was lying in bed all that time I thought about how lovely it would be to be back swimming again.”

As part of his recovery Pete received information and support from his local cardiac rehabilitation programme, which helps people get back to as full a life as possible after a cardiac event such as a heart attack, heart surgery or stent procedure.

Pete continues:

“I joined a cardiac rehab programme in my local community centre and this gave me the support I needed, and then the confidence to return to swimming. After six months I could put my arms above my head, and after nine months in recovery I could maintain a proper swimming stroke again. “Swimming allows me to take time for myself and has done wonders for my health. It’s been a wonderful way of helping me cope. When I swim I can feel my stress fall out of me.”

Pete followed medical advice and started his swimming rehabilitation at both the Swansea University gym and the Wales National Pool Swansea. He decided he wanted to compete at the Swim Wales Masters Long Course Championships in March 2020 which took place just before the national lockdown. This was very ambitious considering it was less than 12 months after his initial heart attack. Amazingly Pete managed to swim both the 100m and 200m Freestyle at the competition taking two golds in the process.

Chief Executive Officer at Swim Wales, Fergus Feeney, said:

“Pete is not only an inspiration, but one of the nicest people you can ever meet and is a key part of the team at Swansea Masters. Pete is popular with all members and was the Inaugural winner of the Swansea Masters Team Member of the Year Award in 2018. Swimming is a vital skill and we are committed to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to learn to swim in a safe and fun way, whatever your age.”

Head of BHF Cymru Adam Fletcher said:

“We are so pleased to see Pete’s recovery from his heart attack and to hear of his success in competitive swimming. A heart attack, or heart surgery are life changing events in peoples’ lives – but what we don’t often hear about is what happens afterwards.  Pete’s determination and positive attitude is really impressive.  Cardiac rehabilitation helps people to understand their condition, make changes to lifestyles which will improve heart health and reduce the risk of further heart problems, as well as offering psychological support to those living with heart conditions. We would recommend that everyone eligible with access to cardiac rehabilitation takes it up.”

Pete is 80 this year and has his heart set on swimming for many more years.

Rhys Gregory
Editor of Wales247.co.uk

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