2006 – Doctor of the Deep

rom MBE to doctor in a year – what’s the secret of champion swimmer Julie Bradshaw’s success? (Jacqueline Morley reports…)

There’s got to be a joke in the fact that one of Britain’s best long distance swimmers has a new website. Some of us suspect Blackpool’s Lady of the Lakes must have webbed feet to have clinched 15 world records since her teens.

Julie Bradshaw, 43 next month has moved from MBE (2006 New Year Honours) to Doctor (honorary doctorate Loughborough University) in twelve months – and shows no signs of slowing down.

So how’s life shaping up with the woman dubbed ‘Miss Madfish’ these days?

Well, for starters, it’s DOCTOR Madfish MBE from now on.

Not content with bagging that MBE Julie, who teaches at Loughborough, can put all academic letters BEFORE her name, too.

The Jules in Blackpool’s crown is now Dr. Madfish MBE, orator and marathon swimmer.

She’s also out to reveal the secret of her success, Goal Mapping, to be precise.

The former St. Mary’s Blackpool Catholic college pupil explains, “Goal setting is a natural function of the brain. Learning the most effective way of setting goals is the number one prerequisite for success in any endeavour, for any individual, team or organisation. Traditionally, techniques focus on words and left-brain activity.

“However, goal mapping is much more, as it uses imagery, the language of the sub-conscious. And, empowered with this, I’ve achieved my succes, 15 world records including my infamous Butterfly English Channel swim in 2002 in 14 hours 18 minutes.

“Vincent Van Gogh once said, ‘I dream my painting tthen paint my dream’. And this is what I did in 2002, when I became the butterfly world record holder, by over nine hours, and the first person ever to swim the English Channel using two different strokes.”

The marathon swimmer has just received an honorary doctorate at the university where she is a part-time lecturer.

“Loughborough conferred on me an honorary doctorate for my ‘outstanding achievements and charity work.”

Julie has come a long way from her first solo four-way swim of Windermere in record time. At 14 she held the junior records on Windermere and Morecambe Bay (each ten miles).

“At that age, I had already raised a large amount of money, which helped begin the Trinity Hospice in Blackpool.”

The following year she became the fastest British junior to solo cross the English Channel – in 10 hours, nine minutes. She still holds the record.

That was 1979, the same year she was invited to the opening of Kirkham Baths, the same public swimming pool she helped The Gazette to save from closure last year.

And this week the baths won a reprieve for a further year.

In addition to those world records, Julie can talk up a storm – which is why she is carving out a new career as a public speaker, hence that website.

Not only is Dr. Madfish one of the best butterfly stroke components around, she’s a bit of a social butterfly, too.

“I certainly get about a lot more than I did – even out of the water,” she admits.

Receiving her MBE from Price Charles last year looked like crowning her career until that doctorate came along.

The right royal honour lifted her spirits after just missing out on an unofficial record bid – doing butterfly stroke around New York’s Manhattan Island: all 28.5 miles of it.

Three hours off her target, the black storm clouds of tail end of hurricane Dennis moved in and organisers ordered the swimmers out.

Julie was devastated. The conditions had been difficult but she had been fired up to become the first ever female to swim around Manhattan using butterfly.

“The boats began to rock as the wind blew and the waves whipped up. Some of the Americans panicked but the English swimmers are used to swimming in the high waves and torrential rain so we couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.”

Months later, she was off to Buckingham Palace, with her family.

“I’d received my Gold Duke of Edinburgh as a teenager, but that day (MBE) was something special. And it was a pleasant change to wear a different kind of hat other than my Aqua Sphere “hat and goggles.”

In her teens Julie was nicknamed “peaches” because of the number she ate during her swims. “Madfish” came along with her extraordinary achievements. Her parents still live in Layton.

Now she plans to turn her talents to public speaking.

“Of course, I’ve got more record breaking swims lined up, and as usual for charity, so I will need sponsorship, not being a funded athlete.

“They include a couple of relay swims, including the six-way Windermere, for much as I love solo swims, relays are a lot of fun and a great way to encourage others into the sport.

‘I’ll be watching the swimming pools of the Fylde, too – for that’s where the future talent can be found IF they don’t close.

“And I hope to inspire others. I visit Hawe Side Junior School in February for a talk, and have a Kirkham Swimming Club presentation, and I’m secretary of the Channel Swimming Association, so hope to give a little advice and help future champions.

 Career Highlights

  • 1970’s: notches up her first cross Channel swim at 15, on August 19, 1979 and Morecambe bay at 14
  • 1980’s: establishes other world record swims.
  • 1990’s: returns from teaching in Canada to conquer Ullswater and Coniston using the hardest stroke, butterfly and then cracks England’s longest lake, Windermere, 10.5 miles
  • 2000’s: fights back from injury to become the butterfly world record holder, in 2002, by over nine hours, crossing the English Channel, and becoming the first person to swim the English Channel using two different strokes.

Last year covers the “loughs and lakes” of the UK and Ireland, targeting front crawl and breaststroke record swims, but using butterfly.

“I wanted to inspire people to go for these events on butterfly and show it could be done,” she explains. “Already one guy has decided to do one of his events ‘fly’ this year.

On August 5, the fourth anniversary of her Channel butterfly crossing, she entered the waters of Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, for the annual 10 mile championship swim “which surpasses the New York swims for scenery.” It took her five hours and 42 minutes – and Julie reckoned she rotated her arms for 13, 000 strokes. It’s another butterfly first for the event.

Blackpool Gazette 12/01/07

Julie Bradshaw

Published by: Julie Bradshaw