WITH lockdown restrictions easing, people across the country are setting their sights on a long overdue holiday this summer.

Nerys Pearce is planning a visit to France in July – by swimming the English Channel.

For the 39-year-old, it will be her second attempt at completing the mammoth feat after she had to abandon last September’s effort when hypothermia set in.

Many have done what Nerys is hoping to accomplish since Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to swim the English Channel on August 24, 1875.

However, no-one paralysed from the chest down, like Nerys, has ever managed it.

Nerys, whose mother was born and bred in Llanelli, moved to Colwinston in the Vale of Glamorgan following the motorbike crash in 2008 that would ultimately result in her paralysis.

She endured some dark days in the years that followed, all of which reached a head when the former army medic tried to take her own life.

But with the help of military charity Blesma, she turned her life around, and has gone on to pull off some truly remarkable and inspirational achievements.

As well as being part of a team that broke a world record in the 300-mile Enduroman triathlon from London to Paris, Nerys won a record-breaking 10 medals at the 2016 Invictus Games.

She then represented Wales at the Commonwealth Games in Australia before conquering, again as part of a team, Race Across America, regarded as the toughest cycle race in the world.

And then last year, that maiden cross-Channel attempt preceded her competitive motor racing debut for Team BRIT, a group of disabled drivers who take part in the Britcar Championship.

“If I had the chance to go back to how I was before the crash, of course I would,” said Nerys, who now lives in Ascot. But do I feel bitter and angry about what happened? No.

“Life would have been different had it not happened, but I would never have had the opportunity to compete at the Commonwealth Games or Invictus Games.

“I would never have met some of the wonderful people I’ve encountered, and I wouldn’t have got the chance to give back to the community by helping young people.”

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She continued: “I turn 40 in October and might do the Barcelona Ironman as a treat to myself! But my focus for now is on the swim and racing for Team BRIT.

“My window to do the swim is July 17-21, so I’m just hoping the sea temperature warms up a bit.

“Unfortunately, the first time I tried it I got hypothermia nine-and-a-half hours in – but I can’t leave a challenge unfinished. Although I didn’t manage to reach France, the first experience was amazing.

"I started at midnight in the pitch black. It was like swimming into the abyss. I was being pushed east because of the tide, but I was swimming as the sun rose and that was incredible. Of course I can I go all the way, and hopefully that will be in July.”

The National Wales:

Speaking about her other priority for 2021, she said: “I was signed up by Team BRIT (pictured above) just before Covid hit last year.

"I got my race licence in September and three weeks later I was racing at Silverstone. The adaptations they have made to the car are just fantastic and there is an amazing camaraderie between everyone in the team.

“We are all very different in our abilities and as people, and what’s great about the racing is that we are not segregated by ability.

“All abilities race against each other and what it comes down to is being the fastest on the track.

“I missed the first weekend of the season and won’t be racing this weekend because I’ve been having a few problems with spasms. I’m hoping to be back soon, but you have to get your health right, and you can only push your body so far.”

Nerys' life changed forever on October 23, 2008, when she was filtering through stationary traffic on the A312 in Twickenham. Riding her Kawasaki motorbike, she was struck by a car illegally reversing over a raised kerb, resulting in a fractured left leg, dislocated right shoulder and serious head injury.

Struggling with intense pain, she underwent a spinal block procedure but her body reacted badly, causing a spinal cord injury which led to paralysis from the chest down.

Confined to a wheelchair, Nerys was in and out of hospital, relying on carers 24 hours a day and taking 10 different drugs to treat her physical and mental pain.

“I was very ill for a good few years, ended up bed-bound and tried to take my own life,” she said. “I just hated myself and felt I was too much of a burden to my family and friends.

“They kept getting calls from the ambulance service saying I was ill, and I thought it would be better if I wasn’t alive because they could be free from it all.

“I could see all the stress it was causing them and that made me hate myself even more, so one night I started drinking wine and taking my drugs, and then a friend happened to ring me. I don’t remember answering it but I did and I’m forever grateful I did because it kept me here.”

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Despite what has happened to her, Nerys has no animosity towards the woman who was driving the car that hit her nearly 13 years ago.

She added: “I’ve never had any anger or ill feeling towards her or bitterness over what happened after. I’m sure it wasn’t the best day in her life either, and it was an accident, just one of those things.

“I’m pleased I don’t have any anger or bitterness about it. It’s important I can see through what I lost and look at what I can do now in a positive way. Anger is a difficult emotion to get past and I’m glad I don’t feel any.

“I still have my bad days, but the military charity Blesma has got me back on track and now I feel like a contributing member of society again.”

Competing for Wales at the 2018 Commonwealth Games was an “amazing” experience for Nerys, and one she hasn’t ruled out repeating.

Pearce finished fourth in the para-powerlifting on Australia’s Gold Coast, two years after a 10-medal haul at the Invictus Games in Orlando.

“The Wales team in Australia was really unified and it didn’t matter if you were disabled or able-bodied, or what sport you were doing, everyone got along,” she said.

“I gave it everything in my event and, while I would have loved to win a medal for Wales, I wasn’t disappointed to miss out. Just being there and competing for Wales was an experience that I will never forget.”

Birmingham hosts the 2022 Commonwealth Games, and on the possibility of competing at another, she added: “I don’t know. It’s always possible and I’d never say no.

“I’ve had a few problems with my injuries recently and this year I want to focus on my swimming and driving.”

Reflecting on her amazing achievements in Florida five years ago, she said: “I still can’t believe what I did.

“I didn’t have any confidence in myself back then, but being in a military environment again was great.”