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Olympic gold medal winner Rebecca Adlington visited QMC for the Swim Stars programme
Buy this photo » Rebecca Adlington and Kim Chapman with youngsters from Swim Stars
THERE was a real buzz of excitement in the air at a Basingstoke swimming pool when Olympic gold medal-winning star Rebecca Adlington paid a visit.
The 24-year-old sports star, who won gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in the 400 metre and 800m freestyle races, announced her retirement in February, and has since launched a learn to swim programme.
She visited QM Sports Centre, at Queen Mary’s College, in Basingstoke, to launch the very first privately run Swim Stars programme, at the Kim Chapman Swimming School.
Rebecca’s vision is to ensure that no child leaves primary school unable to swim 25 metres.
She told The Gazette: “I have written the programme and been involved in it, and I have included all my own values in it.”
All instructors teaching Rebecca’s programme are given training, and she said: “We feel we have the best teachers in the country.”
She added: “It’s a life skill. I don’t want all these kids to become Olympians – I want every child to be able to swim a good 25 metres so it can save their lives.”
Rebecca chose Kim Chapman to run the first private Swim Stars programme because, “she has a passion for swimming as I do and she sees the bigger picture and the fact the kids will use this skill for the rest of their lives.
“They are having the time of their lives in the water. That’s why it seems such a natural collaboration between us.”
The star signed autographs and posed for pictures with children at the pool, in Cliddesden Road, and chatted to the youngsters taking part in her programme.
Mrs Chapman, 58, from Hook, has run her swimming school for 18 years after retiring as a professional swimmer.
The mother-of-two said: “We both have the same passion about learning to swim and the impact of it. It’s about doing two to three good strokes and being able to swim 25 metres at ease.”
She added: “Nothing pleases me more than seeing a child swim their first stroke – there’s a lump in my throat every time.”
Celebrity GP Doctor Hilary Jones attended the event to offer his support to the new programme.
The 60-year-old’s three children were all taught by Mrs Chapman, and he said: “I have known her for years but I have also known lots of her clients and I know how successful she’s been. She’s always very humble about her own achievements.
“She was a top-class swimmer and she’s taken that passion and brought it to her own swimming club and here she is teaming it up with the first of the Rebecca Adlington schools.”
Dr Jones was keen to point out the health benefits of swimming. He said: “It’s so good for the lungs and heart.”
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