Rebecca Adlington is one of those Olympians who warms the heart of the nation with her big smile, huge enthusiasm and obvious love of her sport. But, we wanted to know what came before the medals, the glory and the London Olympics. So we took Becky back to when she was in armbands (or rather, wasn’t in armbands) to help inspire all your young Olympic hopefuls…
MFM: What’s your earliest swimming memory?
RA: “I remember being in Florida and my sisters were in the pool having fun. My mum was making me sit still while she blew up my armbands and I thought, ‘Sod this’, and I pegged it down the side of the pool and jumped in. Everyone stopped because they knew I couldn’t swim, but I just bobbed up. That was it, Mum told me I was starting swimming lessons when I got home!”
MFM: Do you think the home games will inspire children to get into swimming?
RA: “I really hope so. If we’ve inspired anyone it’s a great thing to do.”
MFM: Do you think kids should get into sport early?
RA: “Swimming’s definitely a young person’s sport. The earlier you get in the better. It’s good to be part of sport young because you learn to win and lose. I wasn’t amazing when I was young, but I wasn’t disheartened when I lost.”
MFM: Should kids be encouraged to be competitive from a young age?
RA: “Definitely. It’s there in everyone, every person is competitive. Even the smallest things, like getting to the petrol pump first brings out people’s competitiveness.”
MFM: How did you juggle swimming, school and seeing friends while growing up?
RA: “It was hard, but I managed it well. I’d do my training then eat my cereal on the way to school, head straight to training after school and do my homework on the way home. My sisters would help a lot, and tea was always on the table when I got in. It was a team effort.
“I met some of my best friends through sport. There’s a real social side to it, too. They will be my friends for the rest of my life.”
MFM: Do you think it’s tough for mums and dads to support kids in sport?
RA: “My family has always supported me. They see how much I love it and as long as I’m happy and enjoying what I’m doing, they’re happy. Although my mum was like, ‘Yeess!’ when I learnt to drive and she could have a bit of time to herself. They’ve travelled all over with me, though, it’s amazing to share it with them. They’re not pushy parents, they’re just proud.”
MFM: What wisdom would you pass onto a child starting out?
RA: “Find a sport you love – definitely. There are so many opportunities to get involved in sport and try different things. If you love swimming, then brilliant, otherwise, find the sport that’s right for you.”
MFM: And finally, what was your favourite moment from the London Games?
RA: “Standing on the podium for the 800m and hearing the crowd chanting and cheering for me – I wouldn’t have got that at any other Games. Everyone’s support has been incredible.”