1st Oct 2023 @ 5:00 am

Earlier this summer, 17-year-old Kennedy Denby from Costa Teguise, became the fastest woman swimmer in Spain over 400 metres. It’s an astonishing achievement for the “little mermaid” we first reported on seven years ago. But when we talked to her last month, we discovered that there’s a lot more to Kennedy than just “the girl who swims fast”.

First, congratulations Kennedy. How did it feel to win the absolute 400 metres championship?

It was amazing. I wasn’t expecting to win, but I hoped that I wouldn’t finish lower than fifth.

It was an incredibly tight finish.

Yes. I knew the leader would up the pace at the 200-metre mark, so I sprinted along with her, and made a big push at the end. I knew I’d done well, but I didn’t realise I’d won.

Has that been the highlight of the year?

Yes, that and winning the Travesía a nado El Río from Lanzarote to La Graciosa last year, beating all the men. That was entertaining. Although I did get a bit of hate for it.

Really, why?

Some men can be big-headed. They don’t like being beaten by a girl. I was first out of the water and there were also a few comments as I passed the bars.

Do you prefer open water swimming or pool swimming?

Open water. It’s just more interesting. Training in a pool is just up-and-down, up-and-down, and there’s lot of technical work to practice such as pulls and turns to work on, too. I like swimming in the sea – the conditions are completely different and sometimes I see rays and dive down to touch them.

Open water competitions are also more exciting. You’re not stuck in a lane, and I can overtake lots of people. It can be physical– other swimmers grab your head, and I once got a nasty goggle cut, but it’s fun.

Do you get funding?

Not anymore. The local sports clubs haven’t received any funds this year, and the Nadamas swimming club is small, so we don’t receive anything like the support that larger clubs on the mainland do. When I swim for England or the UK, they pay for trips once I’ve arrived, but I’ve got to pay for the flights there first.

What are the costs?

Mainly travel, but I need goggles, costumes and expensive swimming suits for some competitions, too. That’s one of the reasons I swim in the Open Water GB competition – they give you two free ones!

Are you looking for support?

All the time. Any sponsorship or donations would be really welcome. My dad works hard but he’s not made of money.

Why did you choose to swim for Great Britain?

I was hoping to swim for Spain, but my nationality application didn’t come through in time. I grew up here on Lanzarote, I speak Spanish as well as I do English, and I’m really grateful to my club and the island. It’s strange – when I’m with the British girls I notice I’ve grown up Spanish – the humour and culture is a little different, but I’ve got friends and we get on well.

What about the future?

This season is an Olympic season, with the games taking place next summer. I’d like to qualify for Britain, but I’m aware the competition is tough, and the cut times are really hard. Even if you make the cut, they only take three girls.

Otherwise, I’m aiming at getting as many national medals as I can.

And beyond that?

I’d like to go to Sheffield University in a couple of years. I’m already a member of Sheffield Swimming Club, and I’d like to study law or Spanish. Eventually, my aim is to swim for Great Britain in open water events at the 2028 Olympics.

It’ll be a tough break for you and your dad.

Yes, he raised me since my mum died when I was three. But that’s how it is, and we’ll be in close touch all the time.

What do you do in your spare time?

I’ve just had a couple of weeks break. What everyone else does. I go to the beach, go shopping, see friends. At the end of the day, I’m still a teenager.

You’ve been swimming for almost all your life. Do you ever see an end to it?

There’ll be a time when I won’t want to compete anymore, but I think swimming will always be a part of my life. I’m growing up, and I’m not just the “swimming girl”. Swimming has changed my life – I sometimes get teased because of my broad build, but I know that this is the body I’ve got. I’m doing the best thing and have no regrets.

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