Meet Rosalinda Hardiman – paralympic swimmer and long-distance open water swimmer

Rosalinda, 67 years old and paralysed from the waist down, decided to swim the length of Loch Ness and became the first ever disabled person to do so. This was just one on a long line of swimming challenges that she has tackled – with great success, as her eight world records amply prove.


Rosalinda was left with severe mobility impairments after having caught Polio when she was just 6. For most of her adult life she has been a wheelchair user. When she was 8, her mother taught her to swim using only her arms. In those days, the 1960s, there was a lot of restrictive attitudes towards disabilities. Rosalinda was not allowed to talk much about her disability and was expected to manage by herself as best she could. As a child, Rosalinda did not practice much swimming, but picked it up again when she was a teenager. Only to be firmly stopped by her father, who thought it was putting her disability too much on show. It was not until she was in her 30s and had moved to Portsmouth with the sea at her doorstep that she started to swim again. She joined a local swimming club and then entered competitive swimming at the rather late age of 39. All this whilst juggling a full-time job as a museum curator (today she is partially retired).

She has represented Great Britain in multiple swimming competitions

Since then, Rosalinda’s swimming career has flourished. She became a Paralympic athlete representing Great Britain at the Atlanta and Sydney Paralympic Games in 1996 and 2000. And although she did not win a Paralympic medal, outside the Paralympics she broke eight world records in her class. To crown her list of successes, Rosalinda more recently became an open water swimmer. In 2009, at the age of 57 she successfully crossed the English Channel, and ten years later, she battled through harsh temperatures to swim the length of Loch Ness – the first disabled swimmer ever to do so!

Rosalinda has been thriving in her outstanding swimming career, even though she picked it up rather late in life. In parallel, however, her neurological problems started to get worse. In her 30s, she started to have problems with her bladder and has been using intermittent catheterisation since then. In the recent decade or so, Rosalinda also started practising Transanal Irrigation to manage the problems with her bowels.

Navina Inserts caught her eye as she needed protection during travel and whilst at work

She noticed that the Navina Insert, an anal plug designed to protect against accidental bowel leakage, can be used for up to 24h as opposed to 12h for the plug she previously used from a rival company competitor. Upon trying Navina Inserts, Rosalinda concluded that they were a real game changer. Travelling long-haul and with major swims often demanding over 20 hours of continuous swimming, the longer wearing time is crucial. And it is not just the prolonged usage time that she appreciates with the Navina Inserts:

Navina Inserts are easier to insert as they are more anatomically shaped, and they stay in place, so I have nothing to worry about. They are also pre-lubricated and easy to remove, I just pull them out.

Rosalinda continues to remark that Navina Inserts do not dry out, whereas other plugs she tried were absorbing moisture from the bowel wall and as a result, painful to remove. She explains that although her bowels are paralysed, she still has sensation and could feel the pain. And, she observes, Navina inserts would be a lot easier for a carer because of the applicator, and a lot less intrusive and more dignified for people who need somebody to put it in for them.

I really think Navina Inserts are brilliant!

So, what’s up next for Rosalinda?

The next open swimming season started at the end of April. Although Rosalinda at the point of this interview had no big swims booked, she is always saying to her swimming friends: ‘I am ready and open to invitations. So, if somebody comes along with an interesting swim suggestion, I think, yeah - I'll give it a go!”

So let’s keep our fingers crossed!


Learn more about the Navina Insert