Interview with paralympian swimmer Claire Cashmore

Claire Cashmore was born in 1988 without a left forearm, but that has never held her back. She competed in her first Paralympic Games at the tender age of just 16, coming home from Athens with 2 bronze medals! She picked up a further bronze at the Games in Beijing in 2008, and had great success at London 2012 where she won a silver medal in the 100m breaststroke, bronze in the 4x100m freestyle relay and another silver in the 4x100m medley relay. Claire is currently training hard for her fourth Paralympic Games at Rio, but took the time to chat to Weleda about the challenges of her sport and how she stays healthy.

”Weleda’s Arnica has been such a help in my training and in the lead up to competitions, making sure that I am always fit and free from muscle ache when it really matters”

At what age did you realise you were naturally sporty, and when did swimming become your strongest sport?

When I was 5 we moved to Dubai and I was lucky enough to have a swimming pool in the housing complex. Initially I was scared of the water, however this didn't last long and soon enough Mum and Dad regularly acted as lifeguards as I was in the pool as much as possible. As a teenager, I was pretty self-conscious about my arm. I loved sport, as it was the only time I felt comfortable in my own skin. At school I took part in any sport I could, from horse riding to Irish dancing, but the two sports I excelled at were long distance running and swimming. At 15 I had to make the choice to which route I wanted to take, at the time I decided that I had more potential in swimming than I did in running.

What is your favourite stroke to swim and why?

Breaststroke is my main stroke. When it goes well I absolutely love it, however it is such a technical stroke and quite often it can go horribly wrong.

Competing at such a young age, how did you juggle studies with sport?

It was tough, before my GCSEs I had to do a lot of training on my own or with Amy Smith (Olympic swimmer), as there wasn't enough pool time with my club (Wyre Forest). I would train in the morning, quick change and breakfast in the car on the way to the train station. Full day of school, get home, few hours of homework and dinner, then back to the pool for another few hours. After the 2004 Olympics in Athens and my GCSEs, I moved down to Devon to a specialist sports school (Kelly College), which meant that it was a lot easier fitting in my academic studies alongside swimming.

I think having this balance is great, I had to be super organised and make sure I did my homework straight away. For me exercise is a great stress release and the endorphins make me feel great. Whilst writing my dissertation ay Leeds University I found that I was actually much more productive when studying after doing exercise.

Where do you train and where do you consider to be home?

I am currently training at the National Performance Centre in Manchester. Home is Kidderminster in Worcestershire, where my parents live.

How much training do you do in any day?

I wake up at 6.20, quick bite to eat and get to the pool for 6.55 to start pre-pool warm up at 7-7.30. I then swim from 7.30-9.30 and either have a further 1hr 30 in the gym doing weights or a core/cardio session. I then go home to refuel and rest up before the afternoon session, which starts at 3 for pre-pool and then 3.30-5.30 in the pool. After the session I spend a bit of time stretching and releasing and then back for dinner and bed! In total I have 9x2hr sessions in the pool, 3x1.5hr weight sessions and two core sessions.

What was the best bit about of the London Paralympics for you?

That is a really hard question, the whole thing was just incredible and full of memories I will treasure forever. Winning my medals was obviously very special but I think walking out in front of 17,500 people and seeing all the Union Jacks and the deafening noise is something I wish that I could have bottled up and replayed over again.

Are there any career highlights you are particularly proud of?

I think one of my proudest moments will always be winning two very unexpected bronze medals in Athens. I remember looking up at the scoreboard and not believing that I had a bronze next to my name.

What’s next in the calendar? Will you be off to Rio?

After the Scottish Nationals up in Glasgow at the start of July we are off to Tenerife for a warm weather training camp, and then straight back for the British Summer Meet. I will be competing in the 100m breaststroke at the Rio Olympics, and hopefully the 100m fly and 200 individual medley (still to be confirmed). The Relay team will be decided on the fastest combination when we are out there, so fingers crossed. The swimming programme for Rio is pretty full on, and starts day 1 and finishes on the last day.

You are clearly so able, is there any time that your disability gets in the way of life or prevents you doing anything?

Hmm the only I can think of is the monkey bars and skipping! I can skip but it doesn't look very good! Ha! I hate not being able to do something and generally I find a way around most things.

How do you look after your health? Do you have to be careful about which health products you use when you are unwell?

Yes I think it is really important to live a balanced and healthy lifestyle. I won't take anything before I have double-checked it on the GlobalDro website, which is where athletes can check all medication for prohibited substances.

What draws you to natural and organic skincare?

The chlorine is very harsh on my skin and so it is lovely to use products that have no chemicals in them too try and keep my skin soft and healthy.

Do you have any little daily mantra you use or live by?

Every morning I wake up and think of 5 things that I am grateful for and how I want to be that day (ie stress free, happy etc) and I find this makes me have a really positive outlook on life and not get stressed about the small meaningless things.

Quick Fire Quiz

Favourite colour? Green

Current book you’re reading? JK Rowling’s ‘The Casual Vacancy’

Top tracks you listen to? Mumford & Sons

Food craving? I love food!! Right now I crave halloumi and falafel!

Spectator sport? Swimming, rugby and tennis

Any hobbies? Cooking, theatre and sport

Birthday treat? Someone taking me out for a lovely dinner

Best holiday ever? Kenya

Guilty pleasure? Anything sweet!

Weleda favourites? Evening Primrose Night Cream; Weleda Skin Food is great for my very dry hands and Arnica Sports Shower Gel and Arnica Massage Oil for muscle aches