Lake swim inspires Mark after ski crash

Charity swimmer Mark Dowdeswell who is taking part inthe Great North Swim at Windermere after breaking both legs while skiing a year ago
Charity swimmer Mark Dowdeswell who is taking part inthe Great North Swim at Windermere after breaking both legs while skiing a year ago

A year ago, Sheffield teacher Mark Dowdeswell was in hospital in Switzerland with two broken legs after a ski-ing accident.

After two operations in two days, he had to learn to walk again and to build up the muscles in his shattered limbs.

His recovery has been long and slow, and he is still having physiotherapy, but Mark has set himself a target - not on the ski slopes, but in Lake Windermere

Having watched the Great North Swim on TV in 2012, he decided this would be his inspiration in recovering from the smash on the ski slopes.

He aims to cover two miles with a friend, Dave Stone, raising money for the charity Water Aid.

“We are not interested in racing. We’ll be chuffed if we get around,” said Mark, who teaches history at Notre Dame in Ranmoor.

He needed surgery after being taken by air ambulance to hospital in Interlaken following the accident. “I was ski-ing with friends going pretty fast. I lost control and I can’t remember what happened after that.”

Both legs needed rebuilding before he was flown back to England. Then he started the road to recovery in Sheffield.

Mark is full of praise for the staff at the hydrotherapy centre at the Northern General Hospital - “they managed to get me upright” - and his physiotherapists.

He was told that swimming would be good for him as it wasn’t putting as much weight on his legs as other activities - and the Great North Swim sprang to mind.

“Because I have had one or two medical complications, it has been a really hard slog, but I have always had this in the background,” said Mark, who was a also teacher and preacher at St Thomas’s Church’s Philadelphia campus at the time of the accident.

Living in Crosspool with his wife, Angela, son Andrew, 18, and daughter Sarah, 16, he swam a little before the accident, and is now training at Sheffield University’s Goodwin Centre.

Until his accident, he had been planning to do the Sheffield half marathon and a Jane Tomlinson fundraising walk in the Peak District.

Now he is set to join 10,000 swimmers, including friend Dave, who runs burger vans near Sheffield’s Wednesday’s ground and the students’ union, in the open-air in the Lake District.

Mark, who was initially in a wheelchair, has training on his mind. “It’s completely new to us. We have go to get some outdoor distances in before the race in June.”

But the Great North Swim has come to symbolise the progress he has made.

“I thought here’s a target I can aim for in terms of my recovery.”