Mansfield’s double Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington says GB swimmers could inspire a new generation of stars, with a strong performance at May’s European Aquatics Championships in London.
Adlington won gold in the 400m and 800m at the Beijing Olympic Games, before winning two bronze medals in the same events at London 2012, making her Britain’s most decorated female Olympian ever alongside rower Katherine Grainger.
Her performances in the latter were in front of a raucous home crowd and undeniably helped encourage youngsters to take up the sport.
And history could be repeated later this summer with the London Aquatics Centre Queen Elizabeth Park hosting the 2016 European Aquatics Championships.
The British swimming team for Rio 2016 will compete at the London event, making it the event the last chance to see the nation’s best compete internationally before the Olympics.
And Adlington, who recently took part in the Channel 4 show ‘The Jump’ where she dislocated her shoulder after a fall, admits she will be in the stands for the European Championships in May.
“I am so excited for the European Championships in May,” said Adlington. “It is amazing that they’re back here, in London and at this incredible venue.
“The first major championships since the Olympics and I absolutely love this venue, obviously it holds special memories for me. But even as a spectator now, it’s just such an impressive venue.
“To have major championships here, where I know the crowd is going to brilliant, where I know the swimming is going to be brilliant and where I know the facilities are going to be brilliant, what more could you ask for?
“I think exactly what legacy means is that in 10 years time, someone stepping out the pool says ‘Those London 2012 Olympics inspired me’.
“That’s what legacy is, I don’t think you can measure legacy, it’s very difficult to do. For me, it’s incredible that people have been watching it on TV and thought that inspired me, whether it is to compete or just to get fit and healthy, or maybe just to set themselves a challenge like running a marathon.”
The European Aquatics Championships have not been held in the UK since 1993 and have not been held in London since 1938.
And with the Rio Olympics now firmly on the horizon, Adlington has encouraged spectators to get behind the British team and watch tomorrow’s Rio stars of the future firsthand in London.
“The fact that it is an Olympic year, everything is heightened, everything is more extreme,” she added. “The Europeans are sometimes harder than the Commonwealth Games; it’s that tough and that difficult.
“For these guys and these athletes, they’ll know then whether they’re going to the Olympic Games or not, so they’re going to be feeling a lot of pressure, that’s for certain.
“I think also it’s a nice milestone for them on the road to Rio. I think Rio is a massive thing, with 17,000 people, the big crowd, so for them to come here and experience a home crowd that’s going to have all their support, that’ll be great.
“Hopefully the crowd that’s watching will get behind the athletes and will want to follow them as well when it comes to Rio.
“Hopefully the guys who have been watching will go ‘Oh yeah I remember seeing him, let’s see how he’s done and got on.’ I hope it creates that fan base that will be really important to the athletes. The more support they get, the better.”
Tickets for the European Aquatics Championships – the biggest event to be held at the London Aquatics Centre since the 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games – from May 9-22 are now available here: www.euroaquatics2016.london