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PRUH radiographer takes on the world

25 June 2024 - Team King's represented at Paralympics

Congratulations to Callie-Ann Warrington, Diagnostic Radiographer at the PRUH, on being selected to represent Team GB at this year’s Paralympics in Paris.

Callie’s selection follows her achieving the qualification time at the Aquatics GB Olympic Trials in April and her recent gold medal in the S10 100m Butterfly at the World Para Swimming European Open Championships in Portugal.

Callie, who also claimed the 50m Freestyle bronze multiclass medal at the Aquatics GB Swimming Championships earlier this year, said she was surprised at being selected, but is looking forward to representing Team GB on the global stage: “It was a bit of a shock to get selected because I knew the spaces were limited,” Callie said.

“It is my first ever Paralympics and my first ever big meet. The last 12 months have just rocketed through and I never thought in a million years I would be going to the Paris Paralympics. I was aiming for Los Angeles in 2028 but it was nice to know that Paralympics GB has faith in me.”

Callie has an impairment which affects the left side of her body and causes uncontrollable spasms and contractions of the muscles. She’s been swimming since she was 16 weeks old, but the pandemic meant she wasn’t able to get into the pool due to closures, which has resulted in her losing mobility in her left leg, to the point where she was unable to kick in the water. Callie is also autistic, and the water has become her happy place, with swimming benefiting both her physical and mental health and says that her mum and dad have been a big inspiration in her becoming a swimmer.

“My mum wanted me to learn to swim because she never got that opportunity to and she always said she wanted her children to learn to swim,” Callie said. “If it wasn’t for my mum and dad, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They have devoted their life to swimming as much as I have and to have their support is lovely.

“My mum never knew that this was going to happen, she thought I would just learn to swim and then drop it, but I found my love for competing; the adrenaline rush that I get every time I get into the pool and race is just a different feeling.”

Callie, who is the world number three in the World Para Swimming rankings for Butterfly, is the current European champion in the S10 100m Butterfly, a stroke that she admits is not her strongest but was persuaded to switch strokes on the advice of her mum.

“I hadn’t done 100m Butterfly since 2019 and I did it as a joke in the World Para Series this year in Aberdeen.

“My mum has been pushing me to do 100m Butterfly for a little while and I am now doing quicker times than what I was doing pre-COVID. Who would’ve thought that entering a swim for a joke would be the swim that takes me to the Paralympics. I don’t think many people can say that!

“I am really proud to have won the European gold and the European Championships was such a fantastic experience for me and will stand me in good stead for future competitions.”

As well as being a competitive swimmer, Callie has been a diagnostic radiographer at the PRUH since graduating from university in 2023 and says what gave her the motivation to become a radiographer was her own lived experience.

“The amount of X-rays I have had in my life made me want to become a radiographer,” Callie said. “If someone was to look at my record it would just keep going and going and going. That pushed me into this job.

“I enjoy working at the PRUH and I enjoy working for the Trust. My colleagues in the radiology department are very supportive and it’s been really nice having people come up to me and congratulating me for my gold medal and making the Paralympics squad.

“Some days it is difficult to navigate a job whilst being a competitive swimmer. For example on one day I am awake at 4.30am and I’ll be in the pool from 6-7.30am and then I’ll do a 10-hour shift at the PRUH before training again from 7.30-9.30pm and then I’ll finally get home around 10.45pm.

“Some of my days can be very long and I have been very fortunate to be given the opportunity to drop down to part-time as of July as I am now a National Lottery-funded athlete. This means I can focus on my swimming beyond Paris, because after Paris it continues to the next four-year cycle.”

Callie admits that living with her physical disability and being autistic does not make life easy and in tough moments she isn’t afraid of asking for help when she needs it, and is grateful of her colleagues at the PRUH, who have been supportive when she has asked for help.

“My disability does have an impact on my day-to-day life and there are certain things I cannot do and need help with even at home.

“I struggle with standing for long periods of time and sometimes people will see me sitting down. I wear an AFO (Ankle Foot Orthotic) which is a splint, on my left leg and occasionally if I am in a room I will rest my left leg on a chair.

“I do need breaks, both physical breaks and mental breaks as sometimes I can get overwhelmed. It’s quite nice that my colleagues do understand that if I do turn around and ask for a break they are accepting of it and it’s lovely that my colleagues are supportive like that.

“But I am one of these people who pushes though pain, probably a bit too much, and I will always try and do everything until I physically can’t. I don’t want to be impacting my colleagues and I know I am capable of doing this job to the best of my ability.”

Living with a disability and being a competitive swimmer, Callie hopes that people read her story and realise that people with disabilities are capable of doing anything and having a disability should not create barriers.

“I am hoping people see this story and that it helps them.” Callie said. “If people have disabilities it doesn’t stop us. Just because we have a disability doesn’t mean we can’t do things. Yes, there are things we cannot do and I openly admit the things I can’t do and I need help with, but there are lots of things we can do with adaptations.

“Despite the tough periods I am a qualified radiographer and I did three years at university with placement, have had a full-time job as well as swimming training and yet I am still here and I have reached the place in sport where everyone wants to get to, the top.”

Callie has her sights firmly set on a medal in Paris, and is looking forward to training and competing against the current world number one, British swimmer Faye Rogers, but Callie knows that her swimming journey has just begun and is looking forward to competing in future championships.

“I want to do my best in Paris, but I know I’ve still got a little bit of a journey to get back to my absolute best.

“The art of para swimming is that there is no age limit, so there are para swimmers from other countries that are in their 40s and are still producing personal bests so it’s never too late as a para swimmer.

“I will do my best in Paris and give everything I have but I am hoping it won’t be my last Paralympics.”

Callie will represent Team GB in the S10 100m Butterfly, 100m Freestyle, and 50m Freestyle in the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris, which starts on Thursday 29 August.

Everyone at King’s wishes Callie good luck in the Paralympics and congratulations on being selected.