Sheffield’s James Crisp is ready to pool his talent

Sheffield swimmer James Crisp who is to swim in the Paralympics in London
Sheffield swimmer James Crisp who is to swim in the Paralympics in London
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HE’S won three gold, five silver and three bronze medals but you won’t see his face on gigantic posters or on TV promotions.

At least not yet.

Sheffield swimmer James Crisp who is to swim in the Paralympics in London

Sheffield swimmer James Crisp who is to swim in the Paralympics in London

James Crisp former world 200m Paralympic backstroke record holder, winner of 47 British, European and World championship medals and one tough cookie will be competing in his third Paralympic Games in a couple of weeks.

And he might just be one of the faces to give the country a fresh dose of the glory we’ve become addicted to.

James, aged 29, suffered from polio in a one-in-a-million infection through vaccination as a baby and lost much of the use of his left leg through the disease’s associated muscle wastage.

But it never stopped him doing anything.

Athlete: James Crisp, who'll be battling for a medal at the 'Paralympic Games.                                                      PICTURE: STEVE ELLIS

Athlete: James Crisp, who'll be battling for a medal at the 'Paralympic Games. PICTURE: STEVE ELLIS

As a kid he would climb trees, run around and play football with everyone else, he even turned out for the school team in goal a couple of times.

But it was in the swimming pool that he really came into his own.

Freed from many of the restrictions in movement he faced on foot, James excelled in the water. He burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old, smashing records and shaking up his sport.

Gold medallist at Sydney and Athens Paralympics James missed out on Bejing through a shoulder injury that could have ended his career.

But after a series of operations and a warning from the surgeon that he might never fully regain his strength, James went on to break world paralympic backstroke record in 2010 - one of 10 records he’s held.

Now as a ‘mature’ athlete he’s in the frame for medals at London 2012.

The kid who’s been in a swimming pool since his dad Stewart decided swimming would be good for him as a baby still gets the same thrill in the water as he ever did.

“Swimming is all I have known all my life really, said James, of Woodseats.

“My dad first took me when I was tiny because he thought it would be good physiotherapy
for me. It progressed from
there. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t swimming, I have been in the water now for 29 years!

“It’s amazing that I can swim for a day job, I still love being in the water, I’m very priveleged really.”

To see his 6ft 1ins and 75kilos frame cruise up and down the swimming lanes in one of his Pond’s Forge training sessions is to see a master at work.

James believes he is a very lucky man.

“People can see my disability as a negative but I have lived a full life because of it. I have travelled the world and been to every continent through swimming, I might not have been able to do that otherwise.

“I got into swimming because of my disability and it’s amazing what I have achieved because of it. I forget sometimes that I have a disability, it’s never held me back.

“I used to climb trees and play football with the rest of the kids when I was little. My parents never let me use it as an excuse for not doing things and I never have.

“I have never thought ‘I shouldn’t be doing this’ I just sort of throw myself into things.

I went into the European Championships in 1997 when I was 16 since then I have been to the Sydney and Athens games and to world championships and won 11 Olympic 

“I’m a bit old now, it’s a young man’s sport and the lads coming through will be starting to do to me what I did to the older swimmers when I came through.

“They are keeping me on my toes, that’s for sure. In the past I have been the favourite going into major championships but now I’m battling for a medal.”

They had better be good.

Anyone who wants to take his crown will need ability, guts and a heart as big as Stratford.

“I came back from injury because I wanted to finish on my own terms,” said James.

“I didn’t want an injury telling me that I had to give up. I realise that I am in a priveleged position being able to swim for a living and I want to hang on to that for as long as I can.

“I can’t imagine not 
doing it even though you have to put your body through hell every day and I can’t imagine what else I might have done without swimming. Swimming is my life.

“I will keep going until my body breaks.”

* James Crisp is a supporter of the British Polio Fellowship. For more information on polio, visit

‘James is a great role model for the younger swimmers’

JAMES Crisp has the Olympics X Factor.

So says Mark Lappin, Assistant Head Coach for the City Of Sheffield swim squad based at Ponds Forge. who has been working in Sheffield with James for four years.

“He has ability, is a great role model for the younger swimmers, puts the work in and listens to instructions, said Mark.

“That’s why he is an Olympian. He’s in the best shape he’s ever been in. You get the performance you deserve from what 
you have put in and 
no-one works harder than James.

“He is 29 now but he still has the hunger, the X factor.

“He has medals in him again this time, there’s no doubt about that.”

The name Paralympic comes from the Greek 
word ‘para’ which means ‘beside’ or ‘alongside’. in this case a competition held in parallel with the Olympic Games.

Paralympic history

1944, a doctor, Sir Ludwig Guttmann, started to use sport to help re-motivate war veterans with serious spinal injuries.

1948, he organised the first wheelchair Games at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire.

1952 international competitors entered and interest grew. Over time, the Games gained the official title of the Paralympic Games and were staged to coincide with the Olympic Games in Rome and Tokyo.

1984, more than 1,000 athletes from 41 countries were competing in 14 sports.

Since 1988 the Paralympic Games have used the same venues as the Olympic Games.

2012 The London Paralympic Games begin on August 29 when disabled athletes will compete in 20 sports.