Getting the support he needed has not always been easy for Alfie, but he hasn't let that stop him in his ambitions...
Alfie Penfold is 16 years old and has around 5% sight - but this has never stopped sport playing a huge role in his life.
However Alfie has faced numerous barriers when it comes to accessing sport.
Alfie started swimming aged 7. He attended mainstream swimming lessons and progressed well…until he moved up to the next class and was instructed from the poolside rather than having his instructors in the water. This had an immediate impact on Alfie’s ability to learn and his parents were required to pay for private sessions. These were great for Alfie, however Alfie’s parents could only afford a few of the lessons.
In 2013, Alfie discovered Mid Sussex Marlins’ disability group through contacts at BBS and Swim England, which enabled him to progress no end. The coaches, who were knowledgeable about making swimming inclusive and accessible, gave Alfie the confidence and security to commit to swimming.
At Mid Sussex Marlins, Alfie met Andrew Barns – a volunteer swim teacher who has helped him flourish. Thanks to Andrew’s encouragement and proactivity, Alfie started competing at a higher competitive level than ever before! And so it began…club galas, Para Nationals, Sussex County Championships and WPS World Series later this year. Alfie has also been invited by Swim England Para-Swimming to attend their Foundation Camp!
Alfie is a frequent participant in the BBS National Youth Swimming Gala and this year won 3 gold and 2 silver medals, as well as smashing 3 PBs!
Alfie still struggles with his training; his lessons are extremely popular and he has to hire a private lane to enable him to train as frequently as he would like. However Alfie is never deterred. His ambition in life is to be as independent as possible and to access more frequent training and qualify for even higher profile events.
Alfie’s advice for anyone else with a visual impairment looking to access sport is simple: contact British Blind Sport and search online. “There are always people out there willing to help anyone with a disability, you just need to find the right location and the right sport for you!”