“My father dug up the tennis court in our garden and built a sort of DIY swimming pool. It was great. I have lovely memories of long hot summers spent with friends and family around the pool and just enjoying the outdoors. My father always said, that in terms of fun, it was the best investment he ever made. We had great BBQ’s and everyone socialised around the pool (whatever the weather) instead of being indoors.”
“I have a black and white photo of me aged 5 where I’m wearing a rubber ring that looks like a chicken and there’s a big inflatable shark behind me. I have always said that subconsciously that is what motivated me to swim fast, I have always felt like a chicken being chased by a shark,” he grins.
“I spend more time swimming now than when I was competing,” he adds, “ As well as being the Ambassador for Swimathon. I’m also the Ambassador for British Gas’ ‘Swimfit’ which promotes the health benefits of swimming from paddling pools to podiums.”
“Over 12 and half million people swim regularly in the UK; it’s by far the most popular sport that we do. Britain is a nation of swimmers. Everyone should be able to swim, it’s a life skill; if a kid can’t swim they often feel excluded or inadequate which leads to low self esteem.”
“Water is a great medium, it feels so good and so soft and I think once people get in the water they leave the harsher physical and psychological aspects of life behind. It’s a different World, you get out of the pool feeling energised and re-booted. Astronauts do a lot of their training in water as it’s the closest they can get to replicating an out of this world experience.”
“I often try to work out a way of getting an outdoor pool in my own garden but I need a long pool and can’t get a 25m one into my garden. It doesn’t stop me wanting one though,” he laughs.
“I’d also like to grow my own veg, so maybe I just need a bigger garden altogether. As a child I remember we had a gardener to do the garden for us and I used to help him a lot. Then later on, my step father was an avid gardener and there was nothing better than going home when I was in my 20’s to big platefuls of home grown and healthy veg.”
“One of the nicest things that I see when I coach ‘Sport for Schools’ at primary schools is how much of the awful tarmac areas have been turned into beautiful garden spaces and kids learning to grow things. I find it really heartening to see all that enthusiasm for being outdoors and nature coming back.”