Jun 05, 2017

An email from Alexandra is easy to spot. It is usually littered with exclamation marks, has several words written in capitals and, importantly, will always end with a couple of x’s and a ‘Merci Bien’. If you could ever describe a writing style as a smile, it would be hers.

Alex, 55, lives in Brittany and regularly updates us on how many lengths she has managed at her local piscine. One email from her discusses the infinite joy of swimming in an empty pool, and you can almost hear the squeal of excitement in her voice when she finishes with ‘I just LOVE to swim!!’.

From her infectious joy for the sport, you would be forgiven for thinking that she has loved swimming from a young age. Yet it has not always been her main passion. Prior to moving to France she lived in Wales, and was a fierce competitor in endurance horse riding. Twice she was selected to be in the Welsh Home International endurance team, and she was even awarded an Outstanding Welsh Sportswoman medal.

Alex Nicholls 3

This success however did not come easy. ‘I fell from a young horse…ending up with a couple of bleeds on my brain” she remarks. “Somewhat bizarrely I also contracted a bad dose of trench foot”. She casually jokes that this was because of her love of fashionable skin tight riding boots, yet despite her light-hearted tone it is clear that this was a serious condition. She became in danger of losing her foot, and was unable to walk for a month.

Nonetheless, despite the setbacks, Alex’s determination to continue her passion followed her to France where she purchased a new horse. “I was training him in the round pen which my husband had built for me when he decided to become a rodeo horse” she says. She was bucked off and catastrophically landed on her head; breaking the first vertebra in her neck.

For the next three months Alex lived in a custom made corset that stretched from her waist to the top of her head. The pain and discomfort must have been enormous, but Alex brushes it off as “a bit of a trial”, instead focusing on how grateful she was to recover and the amazing support she received from her husband, Edward. After her specialist recommended swimming as an exercise to strengthen her neck, Alex moved her passion to the pool and started to swim twice a week.

Alex Nicolls 1

It was then that Alex discovered the Aspire Channel Swim. “It gave me the chance to give something to people who have been in similar situations to myself, but have not been as lucky as me with the outcome” she says. The same dogged determination that got Alex up on a horse time and time again led her, only a year after breaking her neck, to completing the epic challenge of swimming 22 miles in 12 weeks, alongside raising £222. She already has plans to participate again next year, and hopes to double her fundraising!

When Alex got in touch with Aspire to inform us that she had finished her fundraising, she also sent a picture of her at her local pool. In it she stands confidently in front of a swimming pool; shoulders pushed back, grinning broadly at whoever is behind the camera and proudly clutching an Aspire swimming hat. She looks empowered and determined, yet most of all she looks happy. She is the embodiment of an Aspire Channel swimmer.

Merci Bien Alex! xx

If you've been inspired you can sign up for the Aspire Channel Swim HERE

Want to see another motivational story? Have a look at CANCER SURVIVOR AND FULL TIME MOTHER COMPLETES ASPIRE CHANNEL SWIM