Olympics star Rebecca Adlington urges Sunderland young people to learn to swim on visit to city

Double Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington was the special guest at a school assembly where she gave pupils a very important message.

Students at St Cuthbert’s Primary School in Grindon were thrilled to meet the swimming legend. Some of them even got to wear her medals.

Rebecca is visiting Sunderland to encourage youngsters to learn to swim at least 25 metres. Not everyone can win Olympic gold, but swimming can be fun and, more importantly, save lives.

The sportswoman, who made Olympic history by winning the 400 and 800 metres freestyle events at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, began a whirlwind day at St Cuthbert’s, the first of six schools in one day.

Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington met with pupils and staff at St Cuthbert's. Picture by Kevin Brady.

She answered questions from fascinated pupils about her career, how she started swimming, places she has been, her favourite stroke, training and travel.

The youngsters heard how she had swam far enough in her life to have gone round the world twice. Although now retired from the sport, she still swims for pleasure and is a BBC swimming pundit.

Rebecca told the Echo: “I’m doing six schools today. To try and fit in six schools in one day is difficult, but worth it.

“We have our Learn to Swim programme in Farringdon Community College and we’re running an event on Sunday and we’ve got lessons all the time there.

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Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington addressed St Cuthbert's pupils at assembly. Picture by Kevin Brady.

“They get a free swim lesson, so every child in the area can come down. They just need to book. If they want to join the programme they can.

“We just like engaging with the community and the schools don’t pay for the assembly. It’s just to get the kids inspired. The message is just ‘learn how to swim’.

“The kids here at St Cuthbert’s were great. One of the little ones told me it was her first ever assembly. It was so cute. The questions were brilliant as well; really engaging and they were very well behaved. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the day.”

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Acting deputy head Kathryn Brown said: “It’s a massive honour for Rebecca Adlington to come here. The children were thrilled and we hope it encourages them to join in swimming to keep themselves safe.”

Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington addressed St Cuthbert's pupils at assembly. Picture by Kevin Brady.

Beatrix Dunnes, six, said: “I was very excited. She was really, really nice and I would like to go swimming.”

Rebecca Adlington will be at Farringdon Community Academy on Sunday, September 18 to cheer on junior Olympic hopefuls, with free taster sessions being hosted throughout the day; organised to teach and inspire the next generation.

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From 9am to 12pm the four-times Olympic medallist and former world champion will be poolside, interacting with children aged 3 to 11, who are encouraged to put on their swimwear and join in for a lesson in the state-of-the-art pool.

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The centre provides an opportunity for children in Farringdon and the surrounding areas to learn a life skill in swimming, as well as other transferable skills which can help in all aspects of a child’s development, such as confidence, determination, resilience, and social skills.

Visit www.totalswimming.co.uk/learn-to-swim-events to book a free taster session.