How we met: Arthur Williams & Rachael Latham - 'She says I'd make good husband material, but hopeless boyfriend material'


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The Independent Online

Rachael Latham, 24

Born with Erb's Palsy, causing a paralysis of her arm, Latham swam for Great Britain from 2004 to 2010. She is the current European record-holder for 200m butterfly, world-record holder in the 50m butterfly and 200m backstroke British-record holder. She will report from Sochi on the Winter Paralympics. Originally from Wigan, she now lives in London

I think I was 15 when they announced that London would host the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, and I always said to myself that I was going to go. But because of my palsy – I was basically yanked out at birth, which severed all the nerves down my left-hand side – I've had to swim just with my right arm, and my physio told me I was putting too much strain on it. If I continued, he said, I'd end up having limited use of the right, too. When you have only one fully functioning arm, that's not something you want to hear, so I retired.

I did end up going to 2012, though. Channel 4 was on the look-out for new faces for the Paralympics. While I liked the idea, I'd never been in front of a camera in my life. But my family said to me, "Rachael, you know sport inside out, and you could talk for Britain!" So I went for it, and that's where I met Arthur.

There were a load of us at the auditions; it was like being in a call-up room prior to a race, but for a full week. So there you are, sat in this confined space, incredibly tense, people trying to psych each other out. It was a tough situation but me, Arthur and four others made it.

I'd never heard of Arthur, but I thought he was great straight off. He used to be a marine, which must have taken a lot of dedication. Athletes have dedication as well, of course, but basically they are doing it for themselves, so they are pretty selfish. Arthur was doing it for his country. That takes guts. I thought you had to be arrogant to be something like a marine, no consideration for the people you may hurt, but he wasn't like that at all. He was very down-to-earth, fun, light-hearted.

The thing about living in the world of disability is that there is always so much to talk about, how you ended up disabled. When I saw Arthur in a wheelchair, I thought: ex-Army, he must have had his legs blown to bits. But, no, it was in a car accident back at home. The driver walked away, he didn't. The fact that he ended up becoming a sportsman shows his strength of character. He's amazing.

We bounce off each other on screen. He does like to make fun, especially if I have to interview some good-looking guy. We've been doing a lot of rehearsals for Sochi over the past few weeks, so we've spent a lot of time together. Somebody said to us, "Wouldn't it be awkward if something happened between you two?" We just looked at each other and went, "Eurghh!" That's never going to happen. Not only is he in a relationship, he's also much older than me. We're more like brother and sister, me and Arthur. We like it that way.

Arthur Williams, 27

A former marine, Williams turned to wheelchair racing after a car accident in 2007 left him paralysed from the waist down. He is now one of Channel 4's presenters for the Paralympic Games. He lives in Cheltenham with his long-term partner

Being a marine, you have to be quite athletic – driven, too. I was both. But the accident knocked me massively. It took me at least six months to get back some sort of health and fitness, but probably five years to recover from it mentally and psychologically. But I knew I wasn't going to sit idle. My natural instinct is to go and provide for my family. I needed to work, to get back some sort of meaning to life.

I was thinking about becoming a pilot – I was really influenced by Douglas Bader – but then this TV presenting opportunity came around, so I took it. The way I see it, it's like I'm chasing a bouncing ball. As long as it keeps bouncing, as long as the opportunities keep coming my way, I'll keep chasing it.

I met Rachael at the auditions. We come from very different backgrounds, me and her. I'm the military man, she's the student. But she was an obvious choice for TV: she is a gorgeous girl, has a credible Paralympic history, and, boy, she can talk!

We went to Berlin in 2011 to cover the swimming championships, and that was a really bonding time, lots of nights out, meals, drinks. It helped us build a good rapport, which you can see on screen, I think. It's not something you can learn; it has to be natural.

I think the success of any co-presenters is down to the chemistry. Presenting should always look natural, care-free, fun. I don't like turning on the television and seeing presenters who have been bolted on to programmes and spoon-fed their scripts and their knowledge. I want to see people who know what they are talking about, and can explain it for viewers.

The great thing about Paralympic sport is that it is still such a grey area. So many viewers are coming to it fresh, wanting to learn more, which means there are so many areas of debate. As long as you know your stuff, and we both do, there are so many questions to answer.

We also happen to be pretty good at joking with each other. She keeps calling me an old man, says I'd make good husband material, but hopeless boyfriend material. She laughs about it, but I give as good as I get.

We're both really looking forward to Sochi – I'll be in the studio in Elstree while Rachael's going. And while I know you are only as good as your last gig, we're already looking towards Rio in 2016. They'll probably have a bigger budget, which means, if Channel 4 still want us, we'll both get to go. We really, really want to.

The Sochi Paralympic Winter Games will be broadcast from Friday to 16 March on Channel 4 and More 4