Swimming Out to Success - Lizzie Bellinger

Lizzie Bellinger recently won Silver at the FINA World  Masters Swimming Championships in Montreal. We get to know the out swimmer as she celebrates her success.

Planet London (PL): What is your first memory of being in the water? 

Lizzie Bellinger (LB): It might sound odd, but my earliest memory is when I chipped my tooth at the bottom of a swimming pool!!! 

PL: What is a typical day like when you're training for a big competition? 

LB: The alarm goes off at 6.15am, and the snooze button is pressed a number of times and then it's up, out and off to work! I get in around 7.30am and then it all depends on the day on what time I leave. Then it's off to training either with one of my clubs or on my own depending on how I am feeling and how tired I am! I find getting into the pool much harder in the winter! 

PL: What is a typical day like when you’re not training for a competition? 

LB: I try to just keep ticking over ( training 2/3 times a week either swimming or running) but since the world masters championships I have taken 2 weeks off and haven't done any physical exercise which is very odd for me! 

PL: How do you like to unwind? 

LB: It's odd, most people use exercise to unwind! For me, it's chilling out, spending time with friends and my family or falling asleep!!!!!! 

PL: How did you get into competitive swimming? 

LB: When I was about 8 years old I developed asthma and the doctor said I should take up swimming to help control my breathing! I have always loved the water so perfect solution. Although in the early days I was the chronic asthmatic who no one really wanted in their lane! But I stuck at it, worked on my technique and I've never looked back. 

PL: Where is the most exciting place swimming has taken you and why? 

LB: I think to the Olympic pool in Barcelona for the Eurogames in 2008 in the blazing sunshine. But I've also been to Perth in Australia, Slovenia, Italy, Belgium, Germany and of course Canada. 

PL: It has been a very successful World Masters Swimming Championships – what is your next challenge? 

LB: My next challenge is to run 10 miles for GOSH! I've never run more than 10km in one go before! As for my next swimming challenge! I need some time to think about what I want to do next as have achieved all my goals this year so far and more! I will not be going to the worlds next year as they are to be held in Russia but will be focusing on the Eurogames (European gay games) in Stockholm, Sweden in August. 

PL: You’ve recently completed 2 triathlons, and numerous other competitions, what spurs you on? 

LB: I think for me I like to do well, and yes this season I have embraced open water swimming as well as being in my second season of triathlons along side training for the FINA World Masters Championships! It's about personal challenges but also about being the best I can. Also in my job, as a PE teacher being a good role model to the students is important too and hopefully spurs them on too to achieve. 

PL: Is it difficult to be out in your sport and do you think athletes who are out perform better than they would do otherwise? 

LB: I think it all depends on the sport. From personal experience swimming is a very straight sport and I remember many years ago over hearing a group of swim miners and their coach talking about a swimmer who was gay and the response was appalling but as a teenager you don't say anything you just think oh god ok I need to keep quiet. I changed swimming clubs and started swimming under the banner 'Out To Swim' about 6 years ago and some people who would talk to me on pool side completely blanked me! Coming out can be hard and can make you feel vulnerable, putting yourself on the line in sport you need to feel confident and strong and for some that is hard if you are openly gay. For me now, I am confident in who I am, in fact I love being gay and think its important to share and express that. 

PL: What does success mean to you personally? 

LB: I cannot express how I felt when I saw the score board to see I had won Silver in the 50m butterfly at the worlds behind a 3 time Olympian! I will be honest I did cry! And then kept welling up every time someone congratulated me! It makes all the training and dedication worth while. But likewise in the Pruhealth world triathlon London back in June I went into the event hoping to finish in the top 50 in my age group out over 100 entrants. I finished 6th in 35-39 yrs age group and 24th out of 440 women.