Romford woman, Edna Child overcame childhood illness to take part in 1948 London Olympics

We can only begin to imagine what people like Jessica Ennis are going through as they prepare to represent their country in the Olympics.

But one person who can empathise with the 2012 Olympians is Edna Child,89 from Gidea Park.

She was one of a number of British athletes that took part in the 1948 Games.

She said: “It was a lovely feeling.

“The club was pleased and so were mum and dad.”

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Edna, who was a member of the Plaistow United Swimming Club finished sixth in spring board diving at the 1948 Games.

She said: “I remember being nervous to begin with, but then afterwards I was fine.

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“I came sixth but it was the first time an English woman had come that high and it was the best I had ever done.”

If you think our athletes have it bad today, things weren’t smooth sailing for Edna.

The grandmother-of-five started swimming for the first time when she was 12 after being diagnosed with a condition called Empyaemia.

It meant that most of her childhood was spent undergoing operations at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

When doctors finally discharged her when she was nine, they recommended that she did gymnastics to help her regain her strength and level her shoulders, before taking up swimming.

She said: “Mother was a member of the Plaistow United Swimming Club and she use to teach swimming to children.

“Swimming was one of the things that people did in those days and when the rest of my class went swimming I usually had to watch them so it was good that I would finally be able to take part.”

But Edna had to overcome her fear of heights before she could go on to become a champion diver,

She said: “I was scared at first, I can tell you that.

“But I did gymnastics for three years and I think that prepared me for the diving.”

You can imagine her surprise then when a letter came through in 1947 saying that she was going to be part of the Olympic diving team.

“I was surprised that I was still swimming and I was able to acquire the skills needed.” She said.

“I was physically behind on so many things because I spent most of my early childhood in hospital, so it was a good achievement to get that far.”

She added: “Everything has changed for the Olypmics now and the conditions are completely different, but I do wish them the best of luck.”

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