Park Royal nurse completes swimming the English Channel in under 14 hours

Park Royal nurse Donna Nicholas swims the English Channel. Picture: LNWUH

Park Royal nurse Donna Nicholas swims the English Channel. Picture: LNWUH - Credit: Archant

A pandemic wasn’t going to put a Park Royal nurse off her stroke of swimming the English Channel.

Donna Nicholas, a sexual health nurse who was seconded to Central Middlesex Hospital during the pandemic, saw her original crossing postponed when Covid-19 struck.

“I smiled all the way,” said the 53 year-old who completed the 21 mile course in 13 hours and 23 minutes three days after her birthday in August.

She was greeted on the beach by Steve Stievenart, the first Frenchman to swim from Dover to France and back again.

“I was over the moon although quarantine restrictions in France meant I had to hop back on a boat back to England almost immediately. It really was a dream come true.”

National lockdown interrupted months of cold water preparation including gruelling weekly swims around Dover Harbour - the favoured training ground of the Channel Swimming Association.

“It was frustrating but I kept my fitness by pounding the roads,” she said.

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Of her Covid placement at the Acton Lane hospital she added: “It was a scary time but we all came together and I met some wonderful people,” she said “It’s important to have interests outside of work though and I always had the swim on my mind. I guess you get a bit obsessed.

“The thought of open water was certainly a refreshing thought when you are spending the best part of 12 hours in PPE. It was something to look forward to.”

As lockdown eased Donna undertook several weeks of training including a six hour trial.

“It all happened very quickly but swimming the channel is a mental as much as a physical challenge. You have to dig deep when you are in the water that long.”

Rules dictate that a swimmers are not allowed to touch the support boat which provides refreshments via a hand line.

Every hour Donna would float on her back and take a carbohydrate drink and a concoction of black tea and flat coke.

She swam with the memory of her deceased sister whose name she wrote on her arm for inspiration.

“I was still full of energy when I reached the other side although it was misty so I couldn’t see the shoreline until the last minute.”

Her next challenge? “I’d like to complete the ‘Triple Crown’ which is the English Channel, the Catalina Channel between Catalina Island and the California mainland, and the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, a 48.5 km circumnavigation of Manhattan Island, New York City,” she said.