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Swimmer with MS is aiming for a Channel first

Mike Dawson is aiming to be the first person with multiple sclerosis to complete a solo swim of the English Channel.
Mike Dawson is aiming to be the first person with multiple sclerosis to complete a solo swim of the English Channel.

A man who spent his childhood in Newark is aiming to be the first person with multiple sclerosis to complete a solo swim of the English Channel.

Mr Mike Dawson, 46, grew up on Eton Avenue and was educated at Sconce Hills and Lilley and Stone schools before going on to Lincoln and then Norwich Art School where he studied animation.

He still lives in Norwich but has remained in touch with many of his childhood friends including Julian Lawrence, who grew up nearby on Greenway and now lives in Nottingham.

He will accompany Mike on the challenge aboard a support boat.

Mike was diagnosed with relapsing and remitting multiple sclerosis just over ten years ago but said there had been signs six years before that when he had problems with his vision.

He used to love extreme outdoors pursuits, particularly skiing, but because of the multiple sclerosis he cannot walk long distances or run and has hypersensitivity in his hands and feet.

Instead, Mike has refocused his energy and taken up handcycling using tricycles that are pedalled by hand. He has also taken part in para-triathlons.

Last year he decided to seek a new challenge and was put in touch with Channel swimmer and coach Tracy Clark.

He said he had been OK at swimming when he was at school and in his 20s but has had to work on his technique.

“I have had to work out a different stroke without using my legs,” he said.

Mike trains six days a week in indoor and outdoor pools and has also been swimming in the sea, which is about 35 minutes from his home.

'I want to show her to dream big'

He is now preparing for a six-hour sea swim, which he must complete before he is allowed to attempt the Channel challenge, planned for the end of September.

The 21-mile swim from Dover could take 15 hours or even longer.

The rules say those attempting the challenge must wear standard swimming trunks, and are also allowed to wear a swimming hat and goggles.

Mike said his daughter, Abigail, 11, was a major motivation for the swim.

“I want to show her to dream big,” he said. “That anything is possible.”

The challenge will also raise awareness of multiple sclerosis.

He said the diagnosis did not mean being confined to a life of disability or not being able to follow dreams.

“One thing I have realised is that one day never arrives,” he said.

“With MS the day that you are planning to do something, or are able to do something, might have gone so embrace life and get out there and do it.”

He is raising money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society and vital research.

To donate visit Mike Dawson's Swim The Channel website


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