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Southwark grandad becomes poster boy for national swimming campaign

A 77-year-old man who was saved by lifeguards whilst having a heart attack in The Castle Leisure centre pool has become a poster boy for a national swimming campaign.

Retired university lecturer Jim Bourlet swims twenty lengths every other day at the Elephant & Castle pool.

As the News reported in February, pool staff gave him poolside CPR after he had a heart attack in the water. He was given two defibrillator shocks and was unconscious for twenty minutes.

Miraculously the grandfather-of-four went on to make a full recovery after spending two weeks in hospital and being fitted with a resynchronisation therapy defibrillator to prevent a further attack.

Medics told him after he’d had a “one in a million” chance of surviving. He says it was the quick thinking staff and his good fitness levels that helped him recover so well.

He was back in the water in April, doing two gentle lengths at first before building back up to twenty over the next few weeks.

Jim has now been chosen as an ambassador for Swim England’s Just Swim Campaign, encouraging more people to get in the water and take regular exercise.

“I can’t recommend swimming highly enough,” he said. “Quite apart from the benefits of the exercise, swimming brings me a great deal of pleasure.

“Many people my age remember swimming from their younger days when pools weren’t perhaps as good as they are today.

“Many don’t realise that modern swimming pools are in warm buildings and designed so that the water is the same level as the pool edge.

“Hot showers, steam rooms and coffee shops all add to the overall enjoyment of swimming at many facilities.

“As for my health, swimming is the perfect exercise for me. My heart doctor told me any exercise that makes your heart beat faster is good. 

“In addition, swimming is a great breathing exercise as you need to take rhythmic, energetic breaths when swimming and deep breaths afterwards.

“I have an excellent lung capacity for my age!”

Trevor Pardoe, Everyone Active’s general manager, said: “Seeing Jim recover so well and go on to resume his twenty-lengths every other day has been wonderful to watch.

“He certainly inspires other members and now, through taking part in the Just Swim campaign, he will spread the word even wider. All credit to him!”

To find out more about the benefits of swimming and how to get started, visit


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