Shotley amputee set to make swimming history for the third time

Stephen White from Shotley had his left leg amputated fifteen years ago. He is determined to swim across Lake Geneva in July

Stephen White from Shotley had his left leg amputated fifteen years ago. He is determined to swim across Lake Geneva in July - the first above-knee amputee to do so. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A man from Shotley is set to make history this summer for the third time, becoming the first above-the-knee amputee to swim across Lake Geneva. 

Stephen White, 57, will set off from Lausanne in Switzerland in July, and swim 13 kilometres across the lake to Evian-les-Bains, France.  

This will not be the first time that Stephen has broken records. 

“I swum the channel in 2014. There were four of us, all amputees, all Blesma members. We were the world’s first all amputee group to cross the channel,” he said.  

“I was also the first above-knee amputee to swim from Alcatraz to the mainland in 2012.” 

Stephen is determined to raise funds and awareness for Blesma, the charity that supported him after his left leg had to be amputated. 

He was in the British Army when he sustained a training injury in 1987. 

“I damaged my leg really badly,” he explained. “I must have had twenty to thirty surgeries to try and salvage it, but they weren’t successful.”  

Fifteen years ago, Stephen’s left leg had to be amputated. 

Most Read

It was then that he returned to swimming, something he had enjoyed as a child. 

“It's been a useful psychological tool. When I’m in the water, people forget I’ve got a bit missing,” Stephen said. 

Stephen White sustained a serious injury to his left leg in 1987, when he was training in the British Army

Stephen White sustained a serious injury to his left leg in 1987, when he was training in the British Army. Despite over twenty surgeries, his leg had to be amputated. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Stephen says that he did not encounter any sharks in Alcatraz himself, but knew they were swimming around the bay.

Stephen says that he did not encounter any sharks in Alcatraz himself, but knew they were swimming around the bay. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

He credits the charity Blesma for supporting him when he first lost his leg. 

“The ‘soldiers in arms’ concept applies to Blesma: members help members.  

“I remember back when I was trying to get to grips with peg legs and getting in and out of showers, all of those new skills you have to learn. 

“The best way to learn that is from someone in the same position as you.” 

Now, Steve is training in earnest, ready to make this latest challenge in July. 

“It you’ve lost a limb, the cold can make the nerves left in your body which have been severed play up a bit. But you get used to it. 

“It’s exhilarating, but it’s also painful, so it’s a good way of focussing your mind and not worrying about the cold, waves, jellyfish, or, in the case of Alcatraz, the odd shark swimming by. 

“My speedos are coming out of retirement, much to my wife’s dismay.” 

Blesma offers support to ex-service men and women living with limb loss and life changing injuries. To donate, visit: https://blesma.org/donate/