Tim Reddish CBE, DL, has had a 13-year international swimming career, competing in three Paralympic Games, three World and five European Championships, amassing a total of 43 medals including three silver and two bronze Paralympic Medals.

Early life

Tim was born in Nottingham in 1957. He became a leisure centre manager for Nottingham City Council and a sports development officer. In 1988, at the age of 31 he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary degenerative condition affecting his sight. By 1996 he lost his vision completely, but in 2013 he underwent surgery in which an artificial retina was inserted into his eye which has enabled him to regain partial sight.

Life as a Paralympic athlete

Tim had been a keen swimmer in his youth, and when his sight deteriorated, he decided to become classified as a disability swimmer. Initially classed as a B2 athlete with reduced vision, he entered his first international tournament, the European Championships in Switzerland, in 1989. There he won 11 medals, including two gold.

Tim first represented Great Britain at the Barcelona 1992 Summer Paralympics. He won two medals, a silver in the 100m butterfly B1-B2 and a bronze in the 100m freestyle. Four years later he competed at the Atlanta 1996 Summer Paralympics competing in five events, and now swimming as a B1 athlete (completely blind), he matched his achievements from Barcelona with another silver and bronze, this time in the 200m medley and the 100m freestyle. His final Paralympics as a competitor were the 2000 Games in Sydney. There he collected his fifth and final medal, winning silver in the men's 4 × 100 m Medley for S11-13 category swimmers.

Tim's Paralympic collection


When asked about the impact of Covid on the athletes he said: 

The biggest challenge now will be where you look to get back what you’ve missed because – because of Covid, athletes from all around the world have sort of been in lockdown, so they’ve not been able to train.  Yes, they’ve been able to maintain some fitness but there are some sports that have that sport specificity.  For example, you cannot replicate what you do in the swimming pool, yeah, there’s all sorts of gadgets out there to help you but feeling the water, you cannot replicate that.  So, what they’re going to look to do is, the coaches will sit down and be scratching your heads and then giving the athletes the confidence, to say – look guys, we’ve got you to here, you wasn’t quite peaked yet, we’ll get back to where you was, so, this winter – and that’s the key, is going to be vital for a lot of our athletes, for those endurance athletes to get a block of winter training in.

He goes on to talk about the impact it had on the older athletes:

If this was at the end of my career it could be one year too much.  If I, for example, the swimming programme, they would not have qualified yet, so if there’s somebody there that’s hanging on by the skin of their teeth or 100th of a second from qualifying this could be a real angst year for them.  Whereas those youngsters coming through, snapping at your heels, they don’t half get progression quite quickly, the youngsters do, through maturation.

When speaking on the progress made by the Paralympic movement he says:

This is the third largest sporting event in the world behind the Olympic Games and obviously the FIFA World Cup.  And we have an opportunity as a Paralympic Movement to change people’s perceptions.  We can’t fix everything at the Paralympic Movement through sport but what we can do is effect change through sport.

He therefore believes the Paralympic movement will survive Covid:

I think we’re better at surviving than most because we’ve had to from day one, if you look at those humble roots from 1948.  We will not collapse; we’ll learn from it and we’ll thrive.

Retirement as a Paralympic athlete

In 1998 Reddish was appointed the National coordinator of British Swimming and in 2003 he became National Performance Director for the Disability Swim Team. Following the success of the British team at Beijing he left his post as Performance Director to become Chairman of the British Paralympic Association. He was also a board member of London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). Tim is currently a Governing Board Member of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC)

Achievements and awards

Tim was appointed as Chairman of the British Paralympic Association in 2008, re-elected in 2013; he stepped down at the end of March 2017.  Tim was awarded an MBE in 2001, an OBE in 2008, and a CBE in New Year Honours 2017.

In 2001 Reddish was appointed an MBE for his services to swimming.

In 2005 he was awarded Freeman of the City of Nottingham. He claimed, 

To be recognised by my peers, the people I've grown up around and those I've worked with in the city makes it a special honour for me," said Reddish." It might be hard to understand, to be honoured by my own city is a higher accolade for me than my MBE.

Reddish is only the 34th person in more than 100 years to be given the honour. He is the first since fashion designer Sir Paul Smith in 1997. Reddish led the successful Great Britain swimming team at the Athens Paralympics, where they came away with 52 medals, including 16 golds. He said:

The honour really belongs to my family who've sacrificed a lot for me over the years and to all my friends who've had an impact on my life. Apparently I now have the right to herd sheep and geese over Trent Bridge, so I might have to go and do that.

He was awarded Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to sport and appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire (DL) in 2019.

Oral history interview with Tim

Interview by Dr Rosemary Hall, 12th November 2021

Tim talks about how he got involved in disability sport in the community, then elite sport where he went on to have a 13-year international swimming career, competing in three Paralympic Games, three World and five European Championships. Winning a total of 43 medals including three silver and two bronze Paralympic medals. Download the transcript here.