Athletes created a splash at the Swimathon launch event in Leicester in a bid to encourage more locals to take up the sport.
The event, held on Thursday 5th January at the Aylestone Leisure Centre, ahead of the 2012 Swimathon weekend in April, attracted over 30 participants over the two-hour duration between 12pm and 2pm.
World Championship medallist Caitlin McClatchey was present alongside Commonwealth Games silver medallists Joe Roebuck and Matt Bowe, and the UK’s oldest lifeguard, Harold Williams of Leicester.
Matt, who is now working as a junior coach with the swimming athletes at Loughborough University, said: “We want to get kids involved. Today we’ll be starting with a warm up and then doing skill work to show participants the kind of thing swimmers do. We’ll then be finishing of with some relays and games to get the kids excited.”
When asked about the popularity of swimming in the UK, he added: “I think it’s different compared to other hot countries where pools are outdoors and there is more of a swimming culture. I think it’s a battle that we do face, but interest has been growing because of the London Olympics and hopefully its legacy will be a good thing for the sport.”
The event hopes to encourage people to participate in the different length swims in April for charity. People can choose to take part in the Big Splash Mile for Sport Relief, or the 2.5k and 5k distance races for Marie Curie Cancer Care.
Joe Roebuck, who was aged six when he first started taking lessons, said: “We’re here to help promote the event to not only help the charities but get the kids involved. I think it’s really important to get young kids interested and keep the future generations swimming.”
Sharing his sentiment, 78-year-old Harold Williams added: “An event like this is fantastic and I’m a big believer in events to promote any kind of sport whether it be swimming, rugby or football.”
Harold continues to take part in charity races to this date and has raised over £1000 every time he has participated for the last 12 to 14 years.
For him the sport continues to remain a huge part of his life and he is still running his 35-year-old children’s life saving club on Sunday mornings in New Parks.
Leicester assistant city mayor responsible for heritage, leisure and sport, Cllr Piara Singh Clair, said: “Swimathon has proved over many years to be a very popular community event, which combines exercise and fitness with raising money for very worthy causes, and I hope this year’s events will be as successful as ever.”
Swimmers can register to take part in a Swimathon Weekend challenge at www.swimathon.org