Teenage girl swims 5km for mental health charity

A TEENAGE GIRL who used swimming to overcome her shyness has completed a 5K challenge for charity.

Amelia Beecroft, 15, swam 200 lengths of the pool at Henley Leisure Center in one hour and 37 minutes, raising £545 for the mental health charity Sport in Mind.

She was encouraged by her parents, Juliana and Tony, as well as a friend and a representative from the charity, which uses physical activity to promote mental well-being.

Amelia, who lives with her parents in Chazey Heath, said she sang songs in her head to motivate her during the challenge.

She said: “I didn’t really know how long it would take as I had never done this distance before, but I think the adrenaline rush meant I did it faster than I expected.”

Amelia, who was sponsored by family and friends, had the idea for the swim over a year ago.

She said: “I want to help as many people as possible. Sport has definitely helped my mental health. It’s just a stress release. I want other people to have that.”

Ms Beecroft said she was proud of her daughter, adding: “I knew she was a good swimmer, but I was surprised that she could do it with hardly any breaks. I didn’t realize she was so motivated.”

He first took Amelia to swimming sessions when she was just six months old at the Rivermead Leisure Center in Caversham.

Ms Beecroft said: “They were fun sessions but I didn’t realize all that they taught him, including jumping and swimming back to the wall. She was always happy in the water and used to swim with her thumb in her mouth.

As she grew older, her teachers noticed Amelia’s talent for swimming. Ms Beecroft said: “They said she was a very strong and competent swimmer. A coach asked her if she wanted to swim most days, but she had other interests.

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“None of my family swim, but Tony is a good swimmer. He definitely he is that side of the family.”

Amelia competed for Kidmore End Primary School at the galas.

However, despite her talents in the water, she did not enjoy her early competitive swimming experiences.

Amelia said: “She scared me but she’s okay now. You just have to get used to it. He was very shy in elementary school and didn’t really talk to people, but now I’m not so shy.

Mrs Beecroft said: “She was calm. She had friends, but she would never be the first to show up.”

Amelia joined the Tilehurst Swim Club before moving to the Henley Swim Club where she quickly made friends.

She said: “At first it was all a bit awkward, but now we are all friends and support each other.

“Swimming helps me overcome shyness as you meet new people. You all have the same interest and you are all kind.

“It helps that I’m good at it. I love it and that has stayed with me. I feel at home on the water. It helps me relax. You go faster when you’ve had a stressful day.”

Amelia started at the Maiden Erlegh Chiltern Edge School on Sonning Common when she was 11 years old and was appointed sports captain.

He continued to participate in swimming galas and competitions with his club. However, she was forced to stop training in March 2020 when the covid pandemic forced the closure of swimming pools and leisure centers.

Amelia said: “It was difficult because we were stuck at home and my fitness levels dropped a lot because we couldn’t train.

“I got good at table tennis since we have a table in the garden. I’m quite a competitive and sporty person, so I wouldn’t let mom and dad win. I used to be pretty close, but now I’m definitely the best.”

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She was finally allowed back on the water in the summer of 2021.

Amelia said: “It felt great to be swimming and diving again. I thought, ‘Oh, thank God,’ but it also felt very strange. We hadn’t lost our technique, it was more our speed, and we were all very tired. You’d get to the end of a pitch and you’d be a wreck.”

Amelia returned to training with the club twice a week and mentioned to her mother one day last year that she wanted to try a swim challenge.

Ms Beecroft said: “She just came out and said she’d like to do a sponsored swim. She was out of nowhere.”

Amelia said: “I had to decide the distance. I wanted it to be hard but not ridiculously hard. I chose 5 km because 10 km would have been too much and 2 km would not have sounded very good.

“I’m pretty good at long distance. I had swum a mile before and didn’t feel tired after that. I prefer it to sprints. I guess I have more stamina than going all out.”

Amelia continued to train with the club in preparation for swimming and received a boost when she was invited to a running clinic in the Olympic pool at the London Aquatics Center for her birthday in October.

She was among some 80 young swimmers given advice by Olympians, including her idol Adam Peaty, who gave a speech about her winning mentality.

Amelia said: “I was talking about always having confidence in yourself and showing it to the other competitors. It’s about a positive mindset. That really helped me believe in myself, as he’s someone I look up to so much.”

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During the challenge, Amelia only had three-minute breaks and said she knew she could complete it after finishing her 150th length.

“I was faster at the end because I just wanted to do it,” he said.

Mr Beecroft, who recorded the lengths, said: “I am a very proud father. He had every confidence that he would do it, but not as fast as he did. It was exceptional.”

Amelia’s friend Emily Norman, 14, who was watching, said: “I was off to the side cheering her on. When she hit 100, I was like, ‘Yes, Amelia.’ It’s just lovely to watch and it’s a great achievement.”

Lucy Milsom, fundraising and community events manager at Sport in Mind, said: “It’s really important for young people to be aware of mental health and challenges like this make a world of difference.

“Hopefully the younger ones will see other younger kids raising money for us and be inspired.”

After the bath, Amelia and her parents celebrated with a meal outside.

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