Adlington set for Zambian cycle challengeSubscribe
UK Sport 31 May 2012
There will be no rest time following the London Olympic Games for double Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington, as the 23-year-old will swap the pool for a bike and begin training for a 280-mile bike ride across Zambia.
Adlington will be joined by Olympic bronze medallist Jo Jackson, former Commonwealth champion Ross Davenport and ex-swimmer Mel Marshall as they look to raise £50,000 for Sport in Action, a non-governmental organisation that looks to inspire change in impoverished communities through sport.
The quartet, supported by UK Sport and British Gas, will set out from Livingstone on 3 October on a four-day Bike for Africa challenge to the capital Lusaka. En-route they will visit a number of projects, also supported by UK Sport, such as 'Go Sisters' which empowers girls and women through sport.
Conditions will be hot and dry but there will be no creature comforts or five-star hotels. Instead, they will stay with local families.
Once in Lusaka they will give swimming lessons at a pool that has been renovated with £13,000 raised at a charity ball by Marshall and where sport sits side by side with AIDS education workshops in a country experiencing a HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The target is to raise at least £50,000 which is earmarked for the construction of a physio wing alongside an already existing AIDS hospital. The aim would be to offer patients physiotherapy but also provide sports physio in the same place in a bid to reduce the stigma attached to AIDS.
Debbie Lye, Director of International Development at UK Sport, said: “UK Sport’s International Sport Development programme has been active in Zambia for many years and we are delighted to be supporting Bike for Africa.
“Sport has a huge power to change people’s lives, develop life skills, and open up new opportunities.
“In Zambia, where there are high levels of poverty, the group will see projects supported by UK Sport which are helping young people, particularly women and girls, protect themselves from diseases such as HIV and AIDS; give them the confidence to continue their education or find jobs; and increase social interaction for young people with disabilities – all through the power of sport.”
The challenge is the brainchild of former world, European and Commonwealth medallist Marshall, who is currently on UK Sport’s Elite Coaching Apprenticeship Programme, which aims to accelerate the development of coaches working in the High Performance System.
The 30-year-old became a Sport in Action ambassador following her retirement after the 2008 Olympics. On visiting the project, she made a pledge to president Clement Chileshe that she would "make a difference" with the aim of undertaking a significant project every four years in line with the Olympics. It has become a passion for the City of Derby coach and when approached by Marshall, all three swimmers jumped at the opportunity to participate.
Adlington, already an ambassador for the Encephalitis Society, said: "I didn't even have to think about it, it was such a great idea. It is totally out of our comfort zone - well, certainly out of my comfort zone, I've not been on a bike for 10 years - so it is very, very new. It's a very different challenge - it's not going to be easy, it's going to be extremely tough but we're perfectly willing to do it for the greater good."
Adlington is also planning to call on the expertise of a fellow Olympic champion.
The Mansfield-born swimmer joked: "It's funny because after Olympics I am going into training for the bike ride so I'll have to get Chris Hoy to give me some tips and help me out. Hopefully I can go up to Manchester and go on a bike ride with him one day."
Olympic bronze medallist Jackson is expecting it to be a shock to the system.
She said: "I think it is going to be quite emotional, especially when we go to the hospitals and see what it's like. I think it is going to be emotionally and physically hard for us. But even if we just put a smile on the kids' faces when we are teaching them to swim then we've definitely done something.”
Davenport admitted the challenge came at a good time knowing the emptiness that can follow the high of the Olympics.
He said: "You've been in a close-knit community with the Olympic team for three weeks and you've gone along this journey for eight, 10, 12 years. So as soon as that is finished there is going to be a massive void in our lives. It's nice we can quickly challenge ourselves and mentally prepare for something that is a very worthy cause."