With Team GB securing medals in Rio, mum of a Paralympian swimmer spoke to us about her daugther's love for swimming from an early age.
Jo-Ann Marren’s daughter Amy made her Paralympic debut at London 2012 aged just 14.
Since then, the Essex-based swimmer has won gold at the World and European Swimming Championships and also passed her GCSEs and A Levels. She is now representing Great Britain at Rio where she is doing the country and her family proud! Jo-Ann tells us what it has been like being Amy’s mum....
We first took Amy into the pool aged two on a family holiday in Turkey. My husband (Andrew) and I were both really keen that she should not be frightened and be water-vigilant. We knew too many parents who avoided letting their babies near the water. But because she has only got one hand, we wanted her to be safe and to know to go onto her back or to be able to get to the side on her own.
They are life-saving skills. We took her to the local pool regularly from that point. Right from being a baby and having a bath, she always loved the water.
I found out that Amy only had one hand from being 20 weeks pregnant and I was shocked - like any mum would be. I didn’t know what was going to happen. But my Dad always said right from her being a baby that people are going to hear about this little girl - she was going to make an impact and people would know her name. Amy went with my parents on a family holiday to Australia to see my sister and brother-in-law and that’s where Amy really started to learn to swim aged three and a half.
Sadly, my Dad (also Andrew) died on the flight home from Australia. Losing my Dad, made us even more determined Amy would swim. Both my Dad and my Mum (Irene) have swam a regional level. When Amy was 10, she watched Ellie Simmonds on TV winning gold at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. She turned to me and said: ‘That’s what I am going to do. I am going to go to London 2012'. She was very focussed. I said ‘you have a lot of hard work to do, a lot of swimming.’ But she did it! She was also taking part in Irish Dancing at the time, but she met with Paralympic medallists Sascha Kindred and Dervis Konuralp and realised she would have to concentrate on swimming if she wanted to her dreams to come true.
Amy aged 3 years with her Grandad Andy and cousin Fletcher.
It has meant 5am alarm calls and years of training. Swimming has kept her very disciplined. Amy is very humble, very confident and very grounded. It has been her life for a while now. There have been times when she has missed out on celebrating birthdays, as swimming comes first. She recently got A and B in her A Levels and after she comes back from Rio, she has about a week off and then it’s off to Loughborough University. Watching Amy compete is nerve-wracking. I've never watched her dive in!
My nerves cannot take it. My heart races and I just want her to be able to do the best she can. It's something that you cannot explain, as it's a mixture of emotions. Once she's raced, she always looks over to me or her dad, and gives us that beautiful smile. As long as she swims her best, that’s all we can hope for.