Herald reporter gets into the pool for Olympic challenge

The Olympics’ aim of inspiring a generation was certainly a powerful message. It has clearly encouraged a wide range of people to take up everything from cycling to martial arts, after Team GB’s success.

The Herald team have been soaking up some of that inspiration, with reporter Alex Therrien taking on a swimming training session...

WATCHING Michael Phelps power home into the history books by becoming the most successful Olympian of all time, I was inspired to grab a pair of swimming goggles and get into the pool.

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For me, there are few displays of athletic skill as impressive as the grace and power of Olympic swimmers.

While most of us can manage a few lengths of breast stroke at a leisurely place, the top swimmers glide through the water like fish.

It is perhaps because I’m a particularly inept swimmer that I’m so in awe of those top swimmers – particularly our home-grown heroes, like Liam Tancock, Gemma Spofforth and Rebecca Adlington.

So to get into the spirit of the Olympic and Paralympic games, I tried my hand at swimming at the Aquarena, in Brighton Road, Worthing, during a training session of Worthing Swimming Club.

My aim was to gain a couple of tips or two and try a sport I’ve never been especially good at.

But within moments of arriving at the pool, I was taken aback by the effortless ease with which young swimmers, each barely half my size, were swimming countless lengths in a variety of styles.

One of the coaches then asked me if I fancied a try.

I warned them in advance I was a weak swimmer, and was asked whether I could manage front crawl.

With a little hesitation, I said I could and hopped into the pool.

What followed was not my most spectacular sporting moment.

I began my swim down the 33-metre pool and, perhaps encouraged by a misguided sense of pride, attempted to complete a second length, when one would have been the right time to stop.

Out of breath and with muscles that felt like lead weights, my front crawl turned into laboured splashing, as my progress through the lane stalled.

Around half-way back, I realised I was not going to make it to the other end in one go, but was mercifully able to hold on to the lane dividers for support.

A little relieved, I regained my breath and completed the rest of the swim. When I reached the end, a couple of coaches asked if I was ok, while another quipped swimming was not as easy as it looked.

Never had truer words been said, as I climbed out of the pool with no damage but a slightly wounded ego.

But if my experience of joining Worthing Swimming Club during one of the sessions was not my proudest moment, it was at least a useful one.

Inspired to do a little better and improve my swimming once and for all, I’ve started swimming regularly and have already noticed an improvement.

And isn’t that what the Olympics and Paralympics is about? Inspiring people to live more active lives through sport.