Matthew Bell is open to the elements

Matthew Bell, 17, from Penshaw training with Sunderland Swimming Club at the Sunderland Aquatic Centre.

Matthew Bell, 17, from Penshaw training with Sunderland Swimming Club at the Sunderland Aquatic Centre.

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IMAGINE being plunged into an ice-cold lake before facing a gruelling mile in the windswept water.

If that doesn’t seem particularly palatable, then consider completing such a challenge just four years after the bombshell of epilepsy.

Wearside teenager Matthew Bell has managed to do just that by refusing to let the condition curtail his swimming career.

Bell had seen his training regime drastically reduced by the rehabilitation process.

But the 17-year-old is now one of the country’s top prospects in Open Water swimming – an Olympic event which sees competitors tackling stretches of canals, lakes, reservoirs and oceans of various distances.

Penshaw’s Bell claimed first place among the non-elite swimmers at the Great Salford Swim last month, completing the mile course among the docks of Manchester in just 18 minutes 54 seconds.

And he will strive for a similar result in the second event of the Great Swim Series this weekend at Alton Water reservoir, near Ipswich.

To read the rest of this feature, please see tonight’s Sunderland Echo.