1. ITV Report

Former wheelchair user completes swimming challenge

A former wheelchair user has made history after becoming the first person to swim from Cornwall to the Isles of Scilly.

Beth French, from Molverton, Somerset, was struck with glandular fever at the age of 10 and diagnosed with ME at 17, when she was forced to use a wheelchair.

ME is a disease which causes severe fatigue and muscle problems which forces people to become weaker and intolerant to physical activity.

Beth's training involved consuming at least 3,000 calories a day, with the swimmer feeding on carb powder for 90 seconds every 45 minutes during endurance swims. Credit: PA

After setting off near Penzance at 12.20pm yesterday, the massage therapist finally reached a beach on St Mary's at 5.48am this morning.

The 36-year-old completed the 26-mile challenge in 17 hours and 28 minutes.

The challenge involved Ms French swimming more than 40,000 strokes of front crawl, in the bid to raise money for charity, Level Water, which helps disabled children to access swimming.

Ms French said the challenge had been "one of two halves", with the first 12 hours passing smoothly without any problems.

After setting off near Penzance at 12.20pm yesterday, the massage therapist finally reached a beach on St Mary's at 5.48am today. Credit: PA

At 12 hours I got a dose of fumes, I ingested too much diesel from the boat. That led to spasms, made my knees hit my chest and I couldn't swim.

That was followed by uncontrollable retching. I actually came very close to ending the swim. It was completely pitch black and I started to get cold.

– Ms French

But the brave swimmer said she was "determined" to finish and "there was no question" of not achieving her goal.

"I was absolutely gobsmacked when I heard the time, I had expected to do it in 20 hours," she added.

The swimmer encountered seals, dolphins and large jellyfish during the swim and, despite being stung by jellyfish on "every inch of her body", Ms French said some sea animals did provide her with some comfort.

"I could hear dolphins clicking in the sea and that was a great comfort to me - it really buoyed me up," she said.

Ms French has already booked her next challenge which will see her swim from Gibraltar to Morocco in 10 hours.