Olympic medal winner Keri-anne Payne launches Great East Swim 2016 on Ipswich waterfront

Launch of the great East Swim 2016.

Launch of the great East Swim 2016. - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

One of Britain’s top open water swimmers has said the amazing challenge of the sport should inspire people to take part in one of the region’s largest mass-participation swimming events.

Launch of the great East Swim 2016.

Launch of the great East Swim 2016. - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

The Great East Swim is returning to Alton Water Reservoir near Ipswich for the eighth year on June 18 with more than 2,000 people expected to take part.

Distances at the event range from 250metre swims for children to a new 10km marathon.

This year’s ambassador for the Great Swim series is Keri-anne Payne, Beijing Olympic Games silver medallist and two-time world champion in 10km open water swims.

She said the Great East Swim was something swimmers of any age or ability could get involved in.

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“It’s for everybody, it’s for young people, old people, disabled people, it’s a sport everyone can do.

“I am so excited there are so many kids wanting to get involved in open water swimming.”

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Payne said one of the great things about open water swimming was being able to swim without the limits of a traditional pool.

“In the pool you have the constraints of a lane rope and in open water you don’t have that.

“For me the freedom of open water swimming is the reason i do it and its incredibly inspiring to be out there and part of nature.”

And she encouraged people to sign up for the swim and put any reservations about it to one side.

“Everybody’s in the same boat together, everyone’s a bit nervous, everyone’s a bit scared, everyone’s had to struggle putting wetsuits on,” Payne said.

“Everyone has a smile on their face because of the amazing challenge they have achieved.”

Also at the launch were 12 schoolchildren from Springfield Primary School who were later getting a swimming masterclass from Payne at Crown Pools.

As part of the swim’s outreach programme more than 3,000 pupils from 95 Suffolk primary schools take part in swimming sessions culminating in a gala the day before the event.

Tony Goldson, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for health, said: “It’s a wonderful opportunity for people to get involved in sport generally but the Great East Swim gives people an opportunity to get out there and meet people like Keri-anne.

“She is a wonderful ambassador and she has a lovely personality. She’s been here today with the children and its wonderful to see the enthusiasm she has for the sport.

The swim has become a highlight in the Suffolk events calendar, attracting visitors from across the country whilst also providing Suffolk’s residents with a fantastic opportunity to take on the challenge of swimming one of the five open water distances.”

A boost for charities

Two local charities are encouraging people to take part in the event to fundraise on their behalf.

The Suffolk Accident Rescue Service (SARS) is an emergency medical charity which sends specially trains volunteer doctors and paramedics to serious incidents.

General operations manager Ben Hall said: “SARS is very proud to be part of the Great East Swim.

“It’s exciting to be associated with this high profile event in the county where our critical care volunteers live and work.

“The event is a fantastic opportunity for us to highlight the life-saving work undertaken by our specialist volunteer doctors and paramedics and also to raise important funds for our charity.”

Dream On helps woman improve their confidence and build new skills.

“We are very pleased to be chosen by Suffolk County Council to be part of the Great East Swim this year,” said Amanda Church, from the organisation.

“We have many excited volunteers who are keen to help us raise funds for The Blossom Charity.

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