Olympic star Becky Adlington has visited Preston to open a new Swim Star academy.
The 25-year-old, who has won two gold and two bronze Olympic medals for freestyle swimming, is expanding her initiative for primary school aged children across Total Fitness gyms, and on Sunday took time to visit the branch in Strand Road for a ‘celebration day’ with pupils.
Becky Adlington Swim Star classes are designed to get all children able to swim at least 25m before they leave primary school through using a ‘Becky Way’ of teaching focused on fun, singing and rewards.
Becky said: “Most of the stats show that 51 per cent of children leave primary school unable to swim. That’s a million children who can’t swim - that shocked me and I wanted to make a difference.
“People take their children along for lessons and as long as they can float, they think that’s fine. But it doesn’t give them confidence in the water or the ability to save their own lives.
“We try to get the children learning without really realising, so we sing nursery rhymes with them and use a lot of toys.
“For instance if I asked a child to put their head under the water they might not, but if I threw a toy in, they’d be straight in after it.
“We’ll also be singing Humpty Dumpty with them, and when he has a great fall, all the children jump in the pool.”
The classes, which are taken by teachers all trained in the Becky Way, are restricted to six pupils each and reward children for helping tidy away at the end of a lesson and being polite to the teacher.
“It’s completely different to what it was like when I was young”, said Becky. “I was fortunate to have a great teacher, but I don’t remember any of the singing or toys.”
She added: “Everyone thinks this is some kind of Olympic programme, but it’s not. If children are interested in taking things further, then we have links with swimming teams and can pass them on. It’s quite nice not to be doing all that!”
At the celebration day, Becky oversaw classes and chatted to the pupils and their parents.
She said: “It’s going really well, It’s been really nice to come and see the children and they have had a chance to meet me. The celebration day has broken up their usual lessons and it’s been nice and fun for them.
“So far around 3,000 are enrolled on Swim Star nationally, so it’s a way to go to get the one million, but we’re getting there.”
Donna O’Rourke from Ashton attended the celebration day with her nine-year-old daughter Victoria, who is involved in triathlons.
Donna said: “It’s brilliant to get this going in Preston. Its good that these lessons also include competitive elements. It’s more expensive, but it’s worth it.”
Karen Johnrose from Fulwood attended with her six-year-old daughter Letitia, six.
Karen said: “My daughter started swimming classes a year ago and has really jumped up in terms of her technique. My daughter loves being in the water, and this follows on nicely with the lessons she’s had before.”