Who is Hector Pardoe: Team GB's marathon swimmer on a mission

For many, diving into freezing open water and swimming 10,000m isn't quite their idea of fun.

But marathon swimmer Hector Pardoe thrives off it.

The 23-year-old will return to the Olympic Games in Paris 2024 for his second stint with Team GB, having made his bow at Tokyo 2020.

Ahead of diving into the Seine this summer, here's everything you need to know about the world medallist and history-maker:

French connections

Pardoe opened his eyes to the world of competitive swimming aged eight, soon taking interest in the 400m and 1500m freestyle and 200m butterfly events.

But his attention soon turned to the open water when introduced to the sport at Mallorca's Best Fest aged 14, immediately falling in love with the discipline.

Just a few years later in 2016, Pardoe won bronze at the World Junior Championships debuting his skills to the world.

Rapidly improving on the international stage, Pardoe soon took the 'risk' in moving to Montpellier to train under Philippe Lucas ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The move came off the back of his European Championships outing in Glasgow, crossing paths with Lucas, an open-water coach known for his tough and effective coaching style.

Despite not speaking any French and Lucas not speaking any English, an alliance was formed and Pardoe began his two-year gap year in Montpellier, a stint which saw him qualify for his maiden Olympic Games.

The Tokyo 2020 story

Pardoe went to Tokyo 2020 with dreams of a medal and feeling on top of the world.

But a drastic turn of events saw the then 20-year-old pulled from the competition during the race.

The pace in the water was high in Japan and Pardoe decided to make a move to catch up with the leading pack by drafting from other swimmers, but the decision cost him.

Pardoe was elbowed by another swimmer with a force so great it snapped his goggles and cut his eye to the point where the Brit believed he had lost his vision.

With blood streaming from his eye, he was forced to call for the rescue boat.

The pain in the aftermath has only convinced Pardoe to work harder towards Paris, believing that his second Olympics has the potential to be the redemption arc he continues to dream of.

"I was at the pinnacle of sport, everyone is watching the Olympics" he said.

"Then that goes and happens to me, so it was tough to get over and come back from.

"I'm massively motivated, the chance to qualify for my second Olympics, redeem it all, and actually finish with a place to my name - it's all or nothing really."

Vegetarian roots

Ask any athlete and they will tell you that nutrition is one of the key factors on the journey to success.

However, Pardoe's journey is a little bit different.

The marathon swimmer is one of only a few British elite athletes who is vegetarian, meaning he does not eat any meat or fish produce.

With studies showing how important protein is in an athlete's development, Pardoe instead turns away from the expected chicken and rice to find his nutrition in other foods.

And with the success he's had an domestic and international level, Pardoe is constantly proving that it is possible to be a vegetarian athlete.

"I'm really proud to be a vegetarian," he said.

"To be able to compete at the top level in open water and improve, obviously, there’s a huge theory [that suggests] athletes need protein and natural sources of meat and everything to be at the top level.

"I just love proving that I can be at that top level and still be on a vegetarian-based diet.”

Windermere record breaker

On Saturday 2 September 2023, Pardoe made history.

Diving into the largest natural lake in England, Pardoe broke the world record for the quickest swim of Lake Windermere end-to-end.

Aged 22, Pardoe completed the 10.5-mile (16.9 km) swim in an astonishing 3:40.28, surpassing the previous record, set by Justin Palfrey in 1997, by eight minutes.

And he did it all without a wetsuit.

"This accomplishment is a testament to the hard work and dedication I've put into my training. I hope to inspire others to pursue their dreams, no matter how daunting they may seem," he said.

Paris 2024 bound

At the beginning of 2024, Pardoe had his sights set on an Olympic redemption in Paris.

The first hurdle was the World Championships in Doha, with the top 13 names granted a quota spot for their nation.

But Pardoe went one step further, winning bronze to become the first British man to win a global open water medal since Welsh compatriot David Davies in 2008 and the first Brit to win a medal since Keri-Anne Payne in 2011.

The silverware has set Pardoe up perfectly ahead of the Paris 2024 Games, who will be joined in the water by Team GB's Tobias Robinson and Leah Crisp.

And with the multitude of experience he has gained since Tokyo, Pardoe revealed that he's not just looking to finish the race in Paris this summer, but challenge for the podium once more.

"I just wanted to secure the Olympic qualification, so to come out with a medal is even better," he said.

"The emotions were quite high, following the path of redemption from Tokyo with the eye injury.

"I was feeling great throughout the whole race (in Doha), and that last lap I made it happen and followed my strategy perfectly.

"I went into Tokyo as a 20-year-old without much experience. The experience I've gained in the last three years will really set me up nicely to compete with the big boys in Paris."

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