Olympic swimmer gives amateurs a helping hand

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By Christine Lavelle

QUADRUPLE Olympic swimmer Karen Pickering has warned that she is “quite frightened” by the number of people who can’t swim.

The four-time World champion said she hoped to help tackle the number of non-swimmers as she gave a water master class in Edinburgh.

Karen visited keen amateurs at Ainslie Park Leisure Centre in the Granton area of the capital, to help improve their fitness and technique to launch a new swimming programme, ‘Swim4fitness’.

It is hoped the UK wide initiative – sponsored by swimwear firm Zoggs – will fit in with everyone, regardless of fitness levels.

Karen said: “I think the numbers of people who don’t know how to swim is quite frightening and I want to make sure this is being combated.

“People who swim often end up doing only one stroke – which no professional athlete could ever cope with, it would get too tiresome and boring.

“I want to show how you can mix it up and use a variety of different equipment and exercises to progress and to keep the learning fresh and interesting.”

Karen, 38, has over 20 years of experience and was awarded an MBE in 1994 for her services to swimming.

During her career she collected 73 national and international titles, four gold Commonwealth medals, and competed at four consecutive Olympic Games.

And Karen said even the best swimmers can improve their technique, which is why top-level athletes have coaches.

She said: “Many of the swimmers I’m working with here today have a great technique but I’m getting them to tweak it that little bit more so they can get the best out of their swim session.

“I am going to continue travelling around the country teaching my swim schools, I’m on a mission to make people love the sport I love.”

Debbie O’Hara, local organiser and leisure manager at Ainslie Park Leisure Centre said: “We are dedicated to working with the local community to improve the general health and wellbeing of everyone in the area.

“By introducing the programme at the centre, people with all levels of fitness can join in by setting their own targets to swim from 20 lengths to 2,000 lengths.”

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