SINCE being diagnosed with polio at the age of six Rosalinda Hardiman has ‘always been a fighter’.
The 67-year-old from Copnor coped with brutal pain to complete mainstream school and got degrees at universities in Scotland and Manchester.
The after-effects of the illness debilitate her from the chest down but she says open water swimming enables her to do things she ‘never could’ on land, and she is gearing up for her latest challenge – swimming the length of Loch Ness. ‘For any open water swimmer the big one is the Channel,' she said.
‘The first time I tried it in 2008 I was pulled out after 25 hours just off the French coast. I managed it in 2009.
‘I’ve swum the Solent and the length of Lake Windermere, which means the other big one is Loch Ness.
‘I've done the longest English lake, so why not attempt the longest British one?’
Rosalinda’s effort, sometime between July 3 and 6 depending on the weather, will see her try to conquer the loch’s 23 miles in 15 to 20 hours.
Food will be passed to her via fishing net from a trailing boat and the lack of movement in her legs means she can only stay afloat using her hands when she wants to eat it.
This tenacious attitude in spite of the physical obstacles against her, she says, was borne from her upbringing.
‘I think it comes from my parents because they refused to acknowledge I had a disability,' she said.
‘I would go to school on public transport and be in so much pain. Coming back, I would have to sit on every garden wall.’
She added: ‘You can get up every day and say no, or you can say I'm going to go off and do this – and I firmly believe the more you do, the more you can do.'
Rosalinda represented Britain at the Atlanta and Sydney Paralympics Games in 1996 and 2000 and broke eight world records in her disability class during her pool career.
She is now partially retired and serves as a heritage and museums consultant in Portsmouth.
Her attempt will be from Fort Augustus and Lochend.