Whirlwind 7 Months
After joining Swindon Dolphin in March 2017 mainly to improve her fitness for horse riding, it became quite clear from the outset that Suzanna Hext had a lot of potential and drive to do more. From March 2017 Suzanna was training barely once a week and entered her first race (25m Freestyle) swimming for the Swindon Dolphin Masters in June at Trowbridge in the Wiltshire Masters competition. Later that year Suzanna swam her second race (50m Freestyle) in the Dolphin Club Champs in October. In 2018 Suzanna swam both the 50m and 100m Freestyle events in the Dolphin Club Champs in September.
Fast forward to 2019 and you could not have planned or even imagined the next whirlwind 7 months. On the 5th January, Suzanna was joined by Dolphin Coaches Dean Fouracre and Colin Jones on a visit to Nottingham for her GB para classification. The classification activity is split into 3 parts, including dryside, pool based and lastly competing in the MIDLANDS PARA-SWIMMING WINTER CHAMPIONSHIPS where she could be reviewed under “race” conditions. The outcome of the classification confirmed Suzanna as an S5, SB5, SM5. Now that the GB classifications were complete, we could now begin to compare Suzanna’s rankings in relation to similarly classified swimmers across GB. At the beginning of the year, Suzanna’s sights were set on Regional Qualifying and a dream of perhaps the Paralympics in Tokyo 2020.
Just a few weeks later, on February 15th Suzanna entered the BUCS Long Course Swimming Championships in Sheffield. This was Suzanna’s first long course (50m pool) competition and the first opportunity for Team GB Para coaches to look and see what she might be capable of. Suzanna raised to the challenge and took 3 seconds off her short course 100m Freestyle PB set in Nottingham. The 200m Freestyle was always going to be a challenge as Suzanna had never raced this distance before, however Suzanna completed this with a very credible 3:11.05. Onto the 50m Freestyle, Suzanna set a new GB S5 Long Course Record with a time of 37.32.
In March 2019, Suzanna increased her competition experience competing in the ASA Para-Swimming Development Meet in Horfield, Bristol at the beginning of the month and the Swindon Dolphin Regional Qualifier L3 meet at the end of month.
On April 12th, a short trip down the A419 to Gloucester saw Suzanna enter the 50m and 100m Freestyle in this L2 Open Meet with a goal of breaking the British records in both events. With all the official paperwork submitted to the Referee before the races start, additional officials put on Suzanna’s lane to ensure a minimum of 3 independent swim times being recorded during the race, all eyes were now on Suzanna to deliver. Suzanna certainly did deliver, successfully smashing both races to set new S5 short course GB Records in both events.
At the end of April, Suzanna was invited to compete in the British Para-Swimming International, Glasgow where she also underwent her International Classification.
Similar to the GB Classification, this was based on bench / pool and competition analysis by a team of International Classifiers. International Classification is required for athletes wanting to compete for their countries at an international level. The British Para-Swimming International meet was also the qualifying meet for the World Para Championships later in September. Suzanna started her bench and pool classification activities on the Tuesday before competing on Thursday and Friday to cover the competition side of the classification activities. Suzanna’s S5 classification was later confirmed that day by the International panel.
(Suzanna Hext – lane 5, blue costume and black hat)
Friday saw Suzanna compete in the 100m Breaststroke, following this race and review by the International Classification team, Suzanna was classified as an SB5. Saturday saw Suzanna compete in the 200m Freestyle and on Sunday the 50m Freestyle, reaching the finals in both events.
Swindon Dolphin coach Dean Fouracre, who supported Suzanna in Glasgow recalled, “It was an incredibly stressful and demanding week for Suzanna. Going through three extremely physical classifications as well as competing against world class athletes, I honestly thought we would be cutting the week short and coming home early. It is a testament to Suz’s drive, commitment and determination that she stayed the course and managed to compete for 4 days back to back”.
After a very physically draining week of highs and lows in Glasgow, Suzanna was selected to represent Team GB at the World Para Championships in London in September 2019 in the 50m, 100m and 200m Freestyle.
But before that, Suzanna has also qualified for, and will be competing in the British Championships in Glasgow at the end of July 2019 in the 50m, 100m and 200m Freestyle. Team GB have been incredibly helpful over the past 7 months and Suzanna is now regularly visiting Manchester, the home of the GB Para Swim Team for training sessions, as well as continuing training with Swindon Dolphin.
Suzanna, who previously Evented at International level, had an accident breaking in a young horse on the 26th July 2012. This resulted in a spinal cord injury, head injury (causing dystonia, diplopia and vestibular issues), and a severely broken pelvis. After getting back in the saddle two years after her accident, hasn’t looked back from them on. She soon began competing at Para Dressage and in 2017 she won Three Gold medals at the European Championships on Pammy and Charlie Hutton’s horse Abira.
Suzanna now has her sights set firmly on competing at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics representing Team GB in both sports.