Fresh from competing at the British Swimming Championships, Crook’s Lyndon Longhorne has a tense wait to find out if he’s made the national team for a second Paralympics. PETER BARRON reports

HAVING just returned home from London after completing 11 races in six arduous days against the country’s elite swimmers, Lyndon Longhorne starts with an admission: “I’m absolutely bloody knackered.”

The Paralympic hero, from Crook, County Durham, has spent his life overcoming the odds, and he’s been at it again as he bids to make Team GB for a second successive Paralympic Games.

He’s now 28 and, if he does make it to Paris, there’s every chance it will mark the end of a remarkable sporting career, though he’s not ruling out the possibility of carrying on to Los Angeles in 2028.

“Who knows?” he chuckles. “Let’s see what happens. I might feel ‘that’s enough’ or I might just think ‘let’s go again’. This is a man with the deepest pools of resilience, and his story has inspired many since it began being told in The Northern Echo in the late 1990s.

As a baby, Lyndon contracted meningitis, leading to him losing his right leg above the knee, his left leg below the knee, his right hand, and the fingertips on his left hand. His grandad started taking him swimming, and Lyndon loved being in the pool.

From splashing about and having fun, he began to take the sport seriously and, in 2008, he embarked on a dream to compete at the Paralympics. In 2012, he was chosen for the honour of carrying the Olympic torch through Bishop Auckland, but was devastated to miss out on selection for the British Paralympic team for London.

When he missed out again four years later, he was ready to give up on his dream but was inspired to return to his gruelling training regime after becoming a dad, and seeing his daughter, Aubree, start swimming lessons.

He set his sights on the Tokyo Paralympics and, when the Covid-19 pandemic led to the country’s swimming pools closing during the lockdowns, he still didn’t give up. Instead, he continued his training by getting up at the crack of dawn to swim in the freezing North Sea.

The reward for such dedication and resilience was the news that he had made it into Team GB. He went on to compete in eight Paralympic races in ten days, achieving his goal of reaching a final in the S4 100 metres freestyle, and setting a new British record.

That was followed by taking part in the World Para Swimming Championships in Madeira a year later. Now, he’s hoping to make the British Paralympic team again, this time to compete in Paris, where the games open on August 28.

“It’s a waiting game now,” he says. “Hopefully, I’ve done enough but, if it’s not to be, I know I gave it everything.”

The British Swimming Championships serve as the trials for the Olympics and Paralympics, and Lyndon competed in the 150m individual medley, 50m backstroke, 50m breaststroke, 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, and 200m freestyle, making the final in all except the 100m freestyle.

If he is selected for Team GB, he will have again done it against the odds, having battled back from a shoulder injury that has hampered his training since late last year, and meant he had to withdraw from a competition in Aberdeen in February to save himself for London.

“The preparation has been far from ideal, and I’ve had to go through an intensive programme of rehabilitation, but the trials went as well as I could have hoped in the circumstances,” he says. Lyndon’s full of praise for the “phenomenal support” he’s had from his coach, Paul Woodley, and everyone at Derwentside Swimming Club.

The Northern Echo: Lyndon Longhorne, ready to compete at the British Swimming Championships. Picture: Morgan HarlowLyndon Longhorne, ready to compete at the British Swimming Championships. Picture: Morgan Harlow (Image: Morgan Harlow)

He’s also grateful to Chris White, chief executive of his employer, Ideal Homes Portugal, for giving him a year’s sabbatical to prepare for Paris.

“They’ve all been outstanding in keeping me in the water during the injury and, if I make it, they’ll have played a massive part,” he acknowledges.

Lyndon will be 32 when the Los Angeles Paralympics come round, but he’s determined to keep his options open.

“It’s hard to believe that I’ve been training for more than 12 years, and I know it has to stop some time, but I just don’t want to say I’m completely done just yet,” he says.

His daughter, Aubrey, will clearly be a big factor in whatever decision he makes. She’ll be six in June and loves her swimming lessons every Sunday, with a preference for butterfly.

“If I don’t make it to Paris, the consolation will be that I’ll get to spend more time with my daughter so, whatever happens, I can’t lose,” he smiles.

Longer term, there are the possibilities of building a career as a motivational speaker, and writing his autobiography.

With a dozen British records to his name, as well as appearances at the Paralympics and world championships, the lad from Crook certainly has quite a story to tell.

The Northern Echo: Lyndon Longhorne, all smiles at the British ChampionshipsLyndon Longhorne, all smiles at the British Championships (Image: Morgan Harlow)

“Whatever I achieve from this point is a bonus. I know I can look back and be proud in the knowledge that I got everything possible out of my body.

Recommended reading:

Get more from The Northern Echo with a Premium Plus digital subscription from as little as only £1.50 a week.

“The truth is that I’ve already over-achieved. Getting to Tokyo was a dream come true, and it would be incredible to do it again in Paris.

“Hopefully, my story has shown others that anything is possible with the right mindset.

 “You just have to take the view that, no matter what life throws at you, you’re going to make the best of it and never give up.”