On a chilly Southsea morning, I meet the legendary MBE Olympian Katy Sexton for a casual chat and pumpkin spice latte on Palmerston Road.
Katy has been my personal trainer at SWEAT Southsea for nearly two months now, but I’d yet to have a proper sit-down and chat with her, and I soon realized I knew very little about her success and what made her tick.
Katy has always loved the tight-knit community in Portsmouth, where she was raised. With so many happy memories of growing up with her mum, dad, and older sister, Katy and her family remain close today.
Noting that she was quite a grumpy child unless she was in the water, it’s no surprise that swimming is Katy’s lifelong passion. When Katy was six years old, she joined the local swimming club, taking part in competitions and distracting herself from school: something that she was never interested in.
When Katy qualified for nationals at the tender age of 11, everyone knew she was onto something special. After reluctantly getting through her GCSEs, Katy took two years out to pursue swimming, never looking back and becoming more and more successful.
I wanted to know who or what inspired Katy. When qualifying for the Sydney Olympics, she got to meet her Olympic hero Steve Redgrave, the five-time consecutive Olympic gold medal-winning rower — if that isn’t inspiring for a hopeful Olympian, I don’t know what is!
Now Katy is the Olympic hero, with her greatest achievement being that she was the first British female to become World Champion. I wanted to know what advice she would give to hopefuls like her younger self. She smiled her contagious smile and simply said: “be happy and enjoy what you do” — my new life motto!
She told me about receiving the MBE letter in the post: it got delivered in a posh envelope with a note asking her to keep quiet about the whole thing. A challenge for a 21-year-old who couldn’t believe what was happening!
Katy is totally modest, and says she feels like she doesn’t deserve the medal — that she’s too young. It lives in its box safely at the bottom of her wardrobe, only coming out for special occasions.
I had to ask her about Brewhouse & Kitchen Portsmouth’s exclusive ‘Sexton’ ale, named after Katy herself, and, as if it was meant to be, she loves it! Being particularly fond of the swim cap and goggle logo, she said it’s very cool to have a creamy ale named after you.
Being trained by Katy is such an amazing experience. I wanted to find out more about her weekly routine now that she focuses on training other people.
Describing her weekly schedule as ‘erratic’, Katy jumps between teaching children at her swimming school to personally training six clients every week at SWEAT.
Teaching children to swim is important to Katy. Her parents encouraged her to swim from a young age because they lived so close to the ocean, and wanted to keep their kids safe in the water — an ethos Katy embodies through her teaching today.
Katy also teaches adults, not wanting them to miss out on swimming even though they may be older than the usual learning age.
When it comes to developing her own skills, Katy is keen when it comes to anything sporty, even if she does embarrass herself like she did when it came to surfing in Australia, but she never gives up!
Katy channels this motivation into teaching children in Park Community School in Leigh Park, a challenging but fun experience which is very rewarding.
One of Katy’s favourite things about being a personal trainer is seeing people like myself (who are terrified to even step foot inside a gym!) gain confidence and make progress towards living a healthier lifestyle.
I wondered what else Katy would want to achieve after so much personal progress and after helping so many other people. Katy’s goals are to continue helping those she trains, and to get as many people swimming as possible, creating a healthier community in Portsmouth.