Leah Wightman demonstrates why backstroke is her favourite discipline in the pool. Picture: Debbie Skittrell.

Swimming is the latest focus of our varied monthly question and answer series, namely West Norfolk star LEAH WIGHTMAN


What are your earliest memories of swimming?

My earliest memories of swimming came through some of my family being keen swimmers themselves.

I remember going to the pool from an early age and having lots of fun before taking part in weekly lessons hosted by the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk

When I first decided to join the club, everyone was very welcoming and friendly and these friendships have continued to this day.

I knew immediately that I’d made the right decision and have never looked back.

When, and why, did you decide to take it up as a sport?

I was nine, actively encouraged by both my mum and aunty who had been club swimmers themselves.

My earlier lessons played a big part in my decision and I felt very much at home in the water.

There is a big social and fun side to the sport, being poolside with my friends and travelling to the occasional league gala by coach.

Leah with some of her awards.

What’s your favourite and least favourite stroke and why?

My favourite stroke is backstroke because it is my strongest stroke of the four.

I also enjoy butterfly, as it was the stroke I qualified for at the nationals back in the summer of 2019.

My least favourite stroke is breaststroke because it’s my weakest one in the pool.

How often do you train and do you ever just swim for fun or is all your swimming training?

At present, my training consists of two-weekly rotas (because of Covid) and time in the pool has been at a minimum.

When training does return to some kind of normality, I will spend between eight and 10 hours a week in the pool, alongside a couple of hours of land training.

All of my swimming is either training or racing, although I do have the opportunity to participate in swim camps.

You’ve won back-to-back top girl awards at West Norfolk Swimming Club’s Open Meet. Tell us a little about how you did that and what it means to you?

To win this award you have to be one of the most consistent performers across all strokes and events during the meeting, gaining points for your individual swims.

Winning back-to-back awards meant so much to me, as it showed that I had prepared properly and trained hard to gain the best results.

You became Norfolk county champion in 2020 for your age group for 100m backstroke and 200m butterfly. How much confidence did that give you going into this year?

Becoming county champion in both of these events gave me so much confidence going into this year before COVID-19.

I know that if I train hard and prepare properly my goals will be achieved, along with faster times. 

For higher-level meets I am normally required to compete in finals as well as the heats. The more finals I make, the more confident I become.

What are your main aims for the year?

My main aim every year is to qualify for the nationals, but in a number of different events and not just in the 200m butterfly.

I’d also like to be crowned county champion in three backstroke events once again, having achieved this a few years back, but this will more difficult as I will be competing against older swimmers.

Looking further afield, what are your main aims for the future? 

I would love to carry on swimming for as long as I physically feel able to. 

My aim and goal is to finish my last race/swim on a high, finish proud of my overall achievements and also leave a big smile on my face.

Once I’ve finished competing, I’d like to think about teaching or coaching younger swimmers, to help give them the best start possible in the pool.

The facts are…

Name: Leah Wightman

Date of birth: April 11, 2005

Birth place: King’s Lynn

Grew up in: King’s Lynn

Secondary School:
KES Academy

Current club: West Norfolk Swimming Club

Honours (selected): County champion in various age groups and events, including backstroke, butterfly and freestyle.
Current club record holder in various age groups

Sporting hero: Adam Peaty


• During a normal training month, Leah can spend more than 30 hours in the pool, covering approximately 50,000m.

• The average cost of one of her racing suits is £300.

• She prefers eating fruit to vegetables when it comes to a diet that keeps her in shape for swimming.

• When she’s not in the pool, Leah likes to relax by watching Netflix in her spare time.

• The West Norfolk Swimming Club starlet’s favourite holiday destination is Spain.


Quickfire questions

Singing or dancing?

Bath or shower?

Tea or coffee? 

Sweet or savoury? 

Summer or winter? 

Day or night?

Film or series? Both

Beach day or pool day?

Favourite food: Chicken (fajitas or Nando’s)

Least favourite food: Lasagne

Favourite TV programme: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Least favourite TV programme: None

Favourite band/musician: Blackbear R&B
(hip hop) 

Least favourite band/musician: None

Favourite film:
Into The Woods

Least favourite film: None

Answers in italics

Do you know somebody who is deserving of our monthly Q&A spotlight? Send your suggestions, or nominate yourself, by emailing gavin@yourlocalpaper.co.uk. Alternatively, contact him on Twitter @GavinCaney