Dorset Swimmer Ben Clark’s life was thrown on its head – quite literally – when in 2010, he broke his neck diving into shallow waves. The accident left Ben tetraplegic. At twenty years old, Ben was told it was unlikely he would move from the neck down again. Quite a blow for a keen swimmer and life guard who had hoped to compete in the 2012 Olympics.
Yet now Ben swims again. This year, Ben’s joining us for In at the Deep End 2020 in support of sports tetraplegics and he’s aiming to break a world record! September 2020 will see Ben swim 10km in the famous Olympic Eton Dorney Lake in aid of Regain, the furthest distance ever conquered by a tetraplegic.
We are absolutely delighted that Ben is joining us for our inaugural Dream Swim Challenge and have dived at the opportunity to interview him about it.
Here, the super inspiring Ben Clark talks about his life as a tetraplegic, his motivation behind joining In at the Deep End 2020 and his goal to make the Guinness Book of World Records.
How and when did you have your accident?
I had my accident in 2010 when I was down the beach with a friend. I ran down into the water, dived into the waves, just like everyone does, but it was shallower than I expected. I hit my head on the bottom and broke my neck at C7 level (just above the collar bone).
It must have been devastating. Would you mind telling us what it was like at the time?
To start with, I didn’t know what had happened. Although I was aware that something severe happened, I thought that it would just heal itself and I'd be OK and back to my normal self. When the realisation set in… that was a scary moment.
How have you adapted to living with your injury?
With my injury, I've managed to adapt fairly well. Before my injury, I was a professional athlete, so I took the same approach to my rehab as I did to my athletic career, in the sense that I learn how to deal with failure and push myself to become as independent as possible.
And now you’re aiming to break a world record and become the first ever tetraplegic to swim 10km in open water! What has been your main inspiration to do this?
My main inspiration to do the 10K is I love the challenge of it. I love the sense of training for a purpose and accomplishing something for myself. By doing it, I hope to learn a lot more about myself and how I can cope with my daily life better through a big achievement.
Have you done much Open Water swimming before?
As stated previously, I was a professional athlete and my sport was swimming. Swimming has dominated most of my life and I owe a lot of my personality to my career in swimming. However, when I used to be a swimmer, I was a sprinter, so I'm very much out of my comfort zone when it comes to doing long-distance.
How are you training for the event?
I know my swimming is up to the challenge. However, my fitness levels over a long-distance are lacking. Hence, I'm making sure to do a lot of distance-training. This isn't just in the pool, but also on a skiing machine, to make sure I'm getting in as much fitness as possible.
Do you have any advice on how to keep positive in hard times?
Yes, I'm a big believer in pursuing happiness. I think that choosing happiness over other things is very important. This allows me to stay positive and allows me to focus on the things that I love doing and spending time with the people that I love. When we are positive, we become much more motivated to the things we want to do and be successful in them.
What are your tips for staying motivated?
I believe that doing stuff when you're motivated is easy. However, being motivated all the time is difficult, so I think it's important to do stuff, regardless of motivation levels. It's in these days - when you feel rough and when you don't want to do stuff, yet you continue anyway - that you really succeed in what you're trying to achieve.
And finally, what does Regain mean to you?
Regain has literally changed my life. With their help and support, I managed to get my qualifications for both swimming coaching and personal training, which has enabled me to start to make a career for myself. This has been massively positive in my life, both allowing me to be more independent and to live a more positive life.
Thanks to Regain, I have my own business and I impart the knowledge I’ve gained over the years on to others, via my YouTube channel and Instagram account, adapttoperform. I really feel that Regain does a great job in investing in people to make sure that they succeed.
Swimming caps off to him: Ben is one very inspiring man and we can’t wait to be right there at the Eton Dorney Lake as he breaks the world record.
The best part is, of course, that it’s all in aid of other sports tetraplegics. Through the funds raised for In at the Deep End 2020, Regain can provide life changing support for more people who have become paralysed in sporting accidents – so that they too can come back swinging (or swimming in Ben’s case) after their accident.
What is In at the Deep End 2020?
In September 2020, we're delighted to run our first ever Dream Swimming Challenge, In at the Deep End 2020. Hundreds of amazing people of all abilities will come together at Eton Dorney Lake to swim for sports tetreaplegics.
Open to everyone over 18, you can choose to swim either a 2.2km (one full length), 5km (one complete lap) or 10km (two complete laps) course on this famous lake to raise vital funds and awareness of Regain Sports Tetraplegics Charity.
Through the charity’s incredible work, we’ll be helping countless people like Ben, who have become paralysed in a sporting accident, regain their independence. We also have a specially designed 1km course for tetraplegic participants, who will be supported by Mark Foster and some other celebrity swimmers.