How to save a life: swimmers compete in Sheffield competition to see who is “the best lifesaver”

Written by Luke Gyesi-Appiah

A sport in which swimmers compete to see who is the most effective lifesaver took place in Sheffield over the weekend.

The National Speed Lifesaving Championships are organised by the RLSS (Royal Lifesaving Society), a charity that works to combat drowning. It took place at Ponds Forge International Sports Centre.

Lifesaving athletes aged 12 and upwards from across the UK and Ireland competed for national titles in the only sport that has a humanitarian foundation. Only RLSS members were allowed to participate.

Aaron Dhanda, 32, who works for the RLSS, said: “On average, around 600 people drown every year in the UK and Ireland. However, we want people to enjoy water safety.

“Events like this give people the chance to compete with people around the UK and Ireland to find out who’s the best lifesaver.”

Aaron Dhanda works for the RLSS.

Prior to the event, competitions were held across the UK and Ireland, with the main competition taking place in Sheffield. It included participants from England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Notably, a Ukraine flag was also on display.

Competitors were separated into various age groups, and they took part in activities like the 100m Rescue Medley in which, after a 50m swim in freestyle, the competitors swam underwater to pick up a manikin and carry it to the finish line.

Over 19 men carry manikins in the competition.


Laura Purcell, 28, the manager of the team Leeds Phoenix, said: “The skills they are learning could help young people to save a life. It’s about using those skills and putting in a competitive speed element.

“The kids love it. A lot of them were on a pathway where they were about to quit swimming, they were fed up and this gives them something to focus towards.”

Laura Purcell is the manager of the team Leeds Phoenix.

Joe Cole, 19, who was in the event, spoke about the sense of community that is forged amongst lifesaving athletes.

He said: “It’s different from swimming in that you do spend a lot of time as a team with each other; it’s a lot more social. Lifesaving just made sense.”

Joe Cole (left)
with teammate Finn Smallcombe.


Written by Luke Gyesi-Appiah

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