A RECORD breaking swimmer who has defied all the odds has been named as teacher of the year.

Jo-Jo McQueen, from Southend, has been awarded the title of Swimming Teacher of the Year from Swim England.

The 26-year-old works as Swim School Manager and Head Swim Teacher at Fusion’s Clements Hall Leisure Centre, in Hawkwell.

And to add to her joy, she and her husband have also just been successful with assisted fertility and are expecting their child, despite being told they would not


The swimming teacher has her left elbow, lower arm, wrist and hand missing, a deformed left shoulder, fused spine with scoliosis, shortened tendons in both ankles and has arthritis in her right wrist.

She lives with other conditions such as vision difficulties and a leaky heart


But the award-winner said: “It’s been a great year as we found out about the baby.

“I am now 15 weeks pregnant, and am keen to know the baby’s sex but my husband doesn’t want to know.

“I was surprised to be nominated for an award, let alone win it.

“It’s amazing to win and I never expected it and I am blown away by it.

“We just thought we’d be going to the awards for a night out but then I won.

“I think it’s important to show people that anyone can achieve anything if they put the work in.

“It’s easy to say: ‘I’ve got this problem so I can’t do it’, but it’s nice to be in a position to be able to inspire others.”

Jo-Jo started working as the Swim School Manager and Head Swim Teacher at Fusion’s Clements Hall centre two years ago and says the most rewarding element of teaching swimming is the chance to give someone the essential life skill of water safety.

She added: “I raced for Team GB in my teens and broke the European record for the 1,500m freestyle swimming event about four times about five years ago.

“I also qualified for the Paralympics in 2008 and 2012 but didn’t compete in the end.

“I think everyone can win if they put their minds to it.

“I wouldn’t say that I am no stranger to winning and did train to be a school teacher but then ended up going back to swimming, so have done a 360.”

She said her parents didn’t let her think she was any different or a any disadvantage when she was growing up.