Since 2008 and the first ever Great Swim event, it's clear that open water swimming is a sport that always challenges expectations.

More than ten years and tens of thousands of swimmers later, the one constant has been the incredible diversity we've seen reflected in the participants. They've shown that no matter what your body shape, your level of fitness, whether or not you live with a disability or your age, you can reach your goal in the open water.

This year Great Swim is celebrating this incredible diversity and challenge the wider world's preconceptions of who an athlete is. The ‘Unexpectedly Great' Campaign will tell some of these inspirational stories and hopefully inspire many more people to think about what they could achieve through a Great Swim event.

Gill Haddington will be taking on her first open water swim since losing her leg to Complex Regional Pain Syndrome in May 2017.

Gill, from Morecambe in Lancashire, was left unable to walk for two years after dropping a small and empty perfume bottle on the top of her foot.

After dealing with the debilitating condition, which is the result of an abnormal physical response to an injury, for two years, she chose to have her leg amputated.

Gill, 42, says the tough decision that she made two years ago was the ‘best thing she ever did'.

She is taking on the John West Great North Swim at Brockhole-on-Windermere on the weekend of 7-9 June for the first time since becoming an amputee.

Gill said: “I dropped a small perfume bottle on my foot. I went for x-rays and scans, but nothing showed up.

“I could not walk on my foot and it continued to get worse as my foot swelled and increased in size and then my toes started to curl under.

“Eventually, my whole foot turned to the left. Finally, nine months later I was diagnosed with chronic regional pain syndrome. “I went through pain and being in a debilitating state for two years before I eventually went to see a specialist and begged for an amputation.

“Five months after I found someone who would amputate my leg and I went through the procedure in 2017.”

Following her amputation, Gill waited months for a prosthetic leg to arrive and so relied on the use of a wheelchair. Following a period of rehabilitation where she learned to balance and walk with her new leg, she has finally found her feet and is looking for a new challenge.

She took part in swimming before her diagnosis and is now looking get back in the open water at the John West Great North Swim.

She will join thousands of people of all ages and abilities who will take on a variety of distances in June, all set in the stunning surroundings of the Lake District.

Gill added: “It has been a struggle with everyday life after my amputation. I was in a wheelchair for four months before I got my prosthetic leg, so getting around was a struggle.

“When I got my leg, I went through physiotherapy to get the balance right and to learn how to walk again but after a few months everything was great.

“I used to swim before my diagnosis and I have found that it is a sport that has been really easy to get back into.

“When I get in the water, it feels amazing and doesn't feel like I have any issues. I can swim for as long as I want!

“I'm excited about crossing the finish line as an amputee and I can't wait to experience the buzz that I'll get competing with everyone else.”

For more information about the John West Great North Swim and to enter, visit: