A swimming teacher who has dedicated more than 50 years to the sport has received a prestigious accolade to acknowledge her service.

Patsy Coleman, from St Neots, was awarded the Swimming Teachers' Association's Cross of Merit on Saturday, in a ceremony held at the poolside at Hinchingbrooke School, Huntingdon.

The association only awards a handful of the prestigious accolades to teachers who have shown a lifetime of achievement and service.

Patsy stated her teaching career at the age of 14, helping at a local club and then progressed to do her teaching certificates. She is still teaching today after more than 50 years of service.

Patsy is also a qualified coach and one of her major strengths has been disability swimming. Patsy became the coach of the Great Britain Paralympic swimming team in 1993 and remained in the role until 1997. After only a year in the role, GB came first at the IPC World Championships and Patsy led the team to the same feat in 1994 at the IPC European Championships.

Patsy coached the GB squad at the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta and was also involved four years later at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney in another role as the coach to the GB development squad. The job was voluntary at the time as lottery funding was not yet in place for athletes and coaches.

Now running Splash Academy at Hinchingbrooke School, in Huntingdon, Patsy spends many hours during the week working with almost 1,000 pupils, a school which started with just 33 pupils in 2000.

In fact, the likes of Lauren Steadman, Fran Williams and David Roberts have all attended the school, each one going on to become a British Paralympian.

She relies on other teachers and keeps a watchful eye over her team, acting as mentor and trainer, a role in which she thrives. She also runs up to five development days each year for the Swimming Teachers' Association.

John Holden, regional officer for the Swimming Teachers' Association, said: "It is particularly pleasing that the Cross of Merit should come to our region but more significantly it is acknowledging an incredible journey of service, achievement and differing roles within swimming, which Patsy has accomplished."