This year’s Scuba Challenge will be held on Saturday 25th February 5.30pm till 8pm at Woolston Leisure Centre, Warrington WA1 4PN. Experienced divers are invited to join in the Going the Extra Mile Challenge (64 lengths underwater) and none-qualified divers are invited to sign up for a supervised taster dive.

If you are not available or don’t want to join in, please show your support by sponsoring event founder, disabled diver Dave Thompson, by donating online at http://www.justgiving.com/scuba2012.

Dave Thompson’s story…

In January last year I was leading a team of volunteers attempting to raise over £30,000 to ensure we could run Europe’s largest voluntary led disability event which promotes independent living. Prior to my accident in 1989 I would have run, walked, pushed a car, towed a bus or anything else to raise the funds, but as all of these activities are beyond my limited physical ability I had to consider something else. You guessed it ‘scuba diving’, the term ‘going the extra mile’ sounded right and we agreed. Going the extra mile, scuba challenge, but I didn’t think too carefully about the physical effort it would take to swim 64 lengths of our local swimming pool, one handed!

The event seemed to develop a life of its own, creating so much interest with experienced and novice divers wanting to join Graham and I, not to mention our swimmers, and it motivated others to think about other ‘going the extra mile’ challenge events.

Terry Wood and the guys from Cybaqua Dive Centre in Warrington provided all of the equipment for our novice divers and the technical support to ensure the safe running of the event. As the clock struck six I called everyone together to welcome them and thank them for helping to create a great atmosphere, after wishing everyone good luck I finished off by mentioning that it wasn’t a race and it was about taking part! I thought I was addressing Graham as he does have a very competitive streak, but I’d not counted on Simon, chief executive at 5 Boroughs NHS Foundation Trust were we work. As soon as he was in the water he was off, well not straight away, he did slow down once or twice to support his son Thomas. His finishing time was 53 minutes, which is an excellent time for the mile. Graham followed a few minutes behind, but the jury is out as he claimed that Rachel, his son Tom’s girlfriend might have miscounted and in fact he may have done ten lengths extra. It is interesting that Rachel is best of friends with Simon, but I won’t go there; after all he is my boss.

For me it was a more realistic pace, slow, slow and even slower to be exact. After ten lengths I felt a deep pain in my one good shoulder which was probably due to the weeks of training. I managed to stop a few time (under water) whilst John my dive buddy for the day adjusted my weights. But once into a rhythm the next thirty lengths flew by, and at forty five lengths John signalled that I should change my tank as I was low on air, I must admit that I was so knackered, I hadn’t noticed. As I surfaced briefly, my wife Pam handed me a drink, but just reaching for the bottle was excruciatingly painful. The stretching hadn’t done me much good; in fact my single arm long stroke was now reduced to a very small flicker type movement, but it kept me going between several rests lying on the bottom. At one stage I just wanted to close my eyes and go to sleep, thinking that I might wake up and it would be over.

But eventually John counted down the last few lengths from ten, and then somehow I saw one finger. This was it just one to go. One final push to the finish and as I surfaced everyone was standing around the pool cheering and clapping. As I hung onto the edge of the pool I remember seeing Simons face with a huge smile, and then Graham grabbed hold of my tank just as I was sliding back into the water. I remember looking around and feeling a huge sense of physical achievement, a sense that I hadn’t felt for twenty two years. One of the highlights of the day was swimming the last length with my son Gavin who was attempting a try dive. Ironically I finished at the opposite end to the pool hoist and had to swim back to get out. But on the way back John handed me a stud earring that had glistened at me each time I swam past it. It’s strange how something so small became a focus even though I was totally exhausted. My spirits were lifted as one by one everyone came forward as I handed out their ‘going the extra mile’ certificates and Simon handed me mine.

The scuba challenge raised over £18,000, launched other challenge events and helped attract three new sponsors which enabled us to exceed our target. Interestingly last year’s Disability Awareness Day attracted over 28,000 visitors including Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex, eight officials from the government of Thailand and coverage on ITV News channels.