Jack Bridge PLY: “I sacrificed it all for that moment and it was absolutely worth it”
Diagnosed with Haemophilia A at eight months old, Jack Bridge has built a platform to share his stories and experiences whilst raising awareness for his condition and other rare diseases, whilst also working towards a career in the sports industry.
Following a successful international swimming career and competing at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Jack now works at Formula 1 as a Commercial Partnership Executive.
“I always loved sport when growing up,” Jack says. “My first love was football. Cricket was another big one.”
In his childhood, Jack had trials for his local football club, Preston North End, and had trials for Lancashire Cricket Club. His third sport was swimming, and this was where he found success.
Jack grew up at the swimming pool with his older sister, Hannah, and when he was three, he started swimming lessons. After being diagnosed with Haemophilia, a rare bleeding disorder, doctors advised Jack’s parents that swimming would be a great sport to help build muscle around some of his weak joints.
Haemophilia can be serious. Jack is missing the proteins specifically that help his blood internally clot. If he cuts himself, he’ll form a scab like everyone else but if he has a trauma injury or an injury to a certain part that comes from an impact, his body struggles to form bruises.
“I can’t straighten my left arm or my left leg because of it and it’s in my left elbow, my left knee and my right ankle isn’t great either,” Jack says. “When I used to play football, I was right footed so I used to get all the bleeds into the joint after playing football.
“When I couldn’t walk on my right leg, I used to hop on my left leg which caused trauma in my left knee. That’s what left me in the position where, at the age of 15, I was able to be classified as a Paralympic swimmer.”
Jack’s diagnosis came after he rolled over a toy at a childminders’ and came out in a massive bruise on his chest. He was rushed to hospital.
“My parents were accused of child abuse and neglect,” Jack remembers. “All for it to be a simple blood test that would give us the answers we were looking for.
To this day, I still see my parents are quite shaken up and angry at the process of being diagnosed.”
Jack was bullied quite heavily at primary school and he was in and out of hospital. Because of the injury in his left arm, Jack wasn’t strong enough to push himself around in a wheelchair, so he had to go to school in a pram and was known as ‘pram boy’.
It’s important to Jack to raise awareness and give back to the community who did so much for him whilst he was growing up. As well as being part of the I Am Number 17 initiative which aims to raise awareness more generally for rare diseases, Jack is an ambassador for The Haemophilia Society in the UK. He acts as a spokesperson for the charity or the community to use to inspire, talk to, ask questions, and be someone for young people – especially young boys because it’s very rare that females are diagnosed with Haemophilia A, which Jack has.
“At every opportunity, I try to raise some sort of awareness and that helped to push that programme of thought into educating young medical professionals on the tell-tale signs of rare diseases,” Jack says. “It’s a way to give back to a community who are really poorly treated – even before I was born – and trying to give young people who have Haemophilia some hope that they can go on to achieve what they want to do.”
Jack started swimming professionally in 2010, after being approached by a referee at a swim meet in Salford, who suggested that he should try and be classified as a para swimmer. He went through the standard procedure for classification, entering 11 events that weekend and leaving with 11 medals, before he was selected for world class programmes and representing Great Britain at his first international meet in 2011; he left those European Championships with a bronze medal. The following year, Jack broke six British records.
“I didn’t know then that I was going to go on and swim at the Paralympic Games,” Jack says. “But, I managed to get called up onto the team for London 2012.”
The Paralympic Games are usually held at the end of August into the beginning of September which falls at the end of the swimming season cycle. Throughout the season, Jack attended as many competitions as he could, but he wouldn’t always be swimming at his best.
“Most of my short course British records are in February because that’s when I was swimming my fastest,” Jack says. “My coaches would always say even if we don’t win, we would learn something.”
There’s no straight path to being successful in any career, and Jack recognises his swimming career to be exactly the same.
“There were bumps in the road,” he says. “There were injuries which were pretty prominent.
“I don’t really focus on the struggles. It’s more about the outcome of that and how I came out the other side; it’s led me into good stead to what I’ve done since my swimming career.”
Fast forward to the London 2012 Paralympic Games, after sacrificing so much to be there. Jack’s main event was the 100-metre breaststroke and he was the first British person in the pool that morning.
“I remember taking my hood off and the crowd just erupting and I just had goosebumps all over my body,” Jack says. “It was the best feeling in the world, and a privilege and an honour to represent not only the country but my parents, my swimming club and my county.
“The whole team did the country incredibly proud.”
Jack just missed out on a medal in the 100-metre breaststroke, finishing fourth, but it wasn’t his only event. He also competed in the 200-metre individual medley, the 100-metre backstroke and the 4x100-metre medley relay team.
He has memories of witnessing and sharing moments with team mates and friends
on the top of the podium and crying as God Save The Queen played, in particular, Jonathan Fox, Eleanor Simmonds and Josef Craig.
“People see the glamour, they see the lights, the fancy watches and the medals,” Jack says. “No one gets to see the hard work, the tears, the times you’re throwing up in the grill on the side of the pool.
“No one gets to see the hard work, the effort, the sacrifices you have to make. I sacrificed it all for that moment and it was absolutely worth it.”
In his first year of A Levels, Jack studied Maths, Biology and Chemistry, but with his swimming schedule, he struggled, and ended up changing his subjects. He then studied Business Studies, General Studies and Law, which led him onto a two-year, part time degree at Northumbria University.
After experiencing the sports industry as an athlete, Jack knew that he wanted to work in the industry once his professional swimming career ended. He moved onto the Sport Management degree at Northumbria and split his first year to coincide with his training for the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, but did his last two years full time.
“At the end of 2018, from September to December, I was swimming but I didn’t let it take over my academic life,” Jack says. “That was my sole focus. If I didn’t get my work done, I just wouldn’t go training.
“I won an international silver medal in the 50-metre freestyle in Manchester in December, but after that, I was focusing on my dissertation.”
Jack left uni with a First Class Honours in his dissertation after spending every day in the library in the summer. Swimming wasn’t a priority, academia was.
He graduated and moved back to Lancashire to spend time with his family, before moving into work, beginning his journey to reaching his dream job in Commercial Partnerships, which he landed in Formula 1.
Jack tried to secure a role with Lancashire Cricket, but it didn’t come to fruition, and he struggled to get any interviews in the sports industry.
He spent some time working for a marketing research firm in Oxford, which he secured through a connection. It might not have been his dream role, but Jack was able to use the skills he’d picked up in his swimming career whilst gaining new ones. The onset of the COVID pandemic in 2020 left Jack furloughed and he was let go from the job in Oxford.
For a while, he did some freelancing in marketing and worked with Public Policy Projects in their health and life science team, something that his experience of working with the Haemophilia Society helped with.
In September 2021, Jack moved to London. He worked with Prism Sport Entertainment, an agency who help to manage partnerships for the McLaren F1 Team and Aston Martin Lagonda’s hospitality element of the Aston Martin F1 Team. This exposed him to F1 in a working capacity, and in April 2022, he applied for a Commercial Partnerships role at Formula 1 and was successful.
“I started the week before Silverstone,” Jack says. “I was in the paddock on the Thursday. Honestly, I had goosebumps, it was like a dream.”
Jack works at Formula 1 as a Commercial Partnership Executive. F1 has a multitude of different partners, ranging from Global and Official partners to Regional partners, Official Suppliers, eSports partners and presenting partners.
“Commercial Partnerships involves collaborating with our Partners and helping them use Formula 1 to maximise their business goals,” he says. “It’s our job to navigate and deliver for the Partners, using many amazing teams within Formula 1. We make sure we are delivering all the rights, which may include Hospitality tickets, Track Signage or integration with our Broadcast feeds. The ultimate aim is to help them with their key targets, after all, the more our Partners are successful, the more successful F1 is and vice versa.
“It does involve a lot of travel to and from races because we have partners who are activating at every race.”
There are always members of the Commercial Partnerships team present at the track for each Grand Prix weekend, and this year, Jack has worked on-site at Silverstone, Austria, Belgium, Zandvoort and Brazil.
“When I’m at the track, it’s very much all hands on deck; I’m in event mode” Jack says. “In Zandvoort, I was doing 30,000 steps a day, taking people on tours, making sure they got everything they needed in Paddock Club and just spending time with them.”
In London, a lot of the work is preparing for a race weekend, no matter if Jack is travelling to the Grand Prix or not. The travelling role is often split among team members.
“It’s amazing to be away for a Grand Prix weekend but I don’t see much on track action unless I’m watching with a partner,” Jack says. “It’s super long days too but the team are always energetic and we work hard together to make sure we are delivering for all our partners during a Grand Prix weekend.
“it’s not a nine to five, that’s for sure – but it’s an incredible privilege to be working in Formula 1 during these incredibly exciting times as we engage with more new fans around the world and as we head towards the 2023 season and beyond...”
Photo credit: Jack Bridge