Fundraisers sign up to world’s biggest swim at Portsmouth’s Mountbatten Centre

BIG SWIM Paralympic swimmer Lauren Steadman helps to launch the Swimathon Weekend at The Mountbatten Centre in Portsmouth with students from South Downs College.  Pictures: Malcolm Wells (120026-8984)
BIG SWIM Paralympic swimmer Lauren Steadman helps to launch the Swimathon Weekend at The Mountbatten Centre in Portsmouth with students from South Downs College. Pictures: Malcolm Wells (120026-8984)
A forensics team was spotted on the M3 yesterday after the motorway was closed. Picture: Simon Cox

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FUNDRAISERS have gathered in Portsmouth to pledge their involvement in the world’s biggest swim for charity.

Dozens turned up at The Mountbatten Centre, in Twyford Avenue, Stamshaw, to sign up for The Swimathon Weekend, which will take place in 650 pools across the country in April.

SIGNING UP Lauren Steadman makes her own pledge.  (120026-4243)

SIGNING UP Lauren Steadman makes her own pledge. (120026-4243)

Yesterday’s event marked the south east launch of The Swimathon Weekend, which will see thousands of people in goggles and trunks race in the ‘Big Splash Mile’ for Sport Relief or in 2.5k and 5k distance challenges for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Paralympic swimmer Lauren Steadman, who is studying psychology at the University of Portsmouth, stopped by at the launch to speak to swimmers who will take part.

The 19-year-old – who won bronze at the Paralympic World Cup – swam lengths of the pool with students from South Downs College and showed them different swimming strokes and techniques.

Lauren, who was born with just her left arm, said: ‘This is all about urging people to do something great for charity, and at the same time it will help them keep fit. It’s a win-win situation. I haven’t let my disability stop me pursuing my passion for swimming.

‘If I can do it, then others can as well. Because I was born this way I’ve never known anything different. I’ve just made use of what I’ve got.’

Elite swimmer Katy Sexton, 29, of Cosham, signed up to complete the ‘Big Splash Mile’ during morning swimming sessions at Springfield School, in Central Road, Drayton.

Katy, a former 200m backstroke swimming world champion, said: ‘The Big Splash Mile is all about encouraging people to be active. It’s something that everyday swimmers can work towards.

‘You don’t need to be at Olympic standard. It’s accessible to everyone. As long as you have fun then that’s the main thing.’

The Swimathon Weekend, which has been set up by The Amateur Swimming Association, was launched in nine other cities across the country at the same time yesterday.

Louise Bunker, 36, of Portchester, seized the opportunity to register for The Swimathon Weekend after she took her son Jack, aged 20 months, for a swimming lesson.

She said: ‘I initially came to see what was going on. I saw it as a good opportunity to set myself a challenge in the new year. I like swimming and I normally don’t have enough time to do it. The fact it’s going to be for charity is an added incentive.’

More than half-a-million people have taken part in the Swimathon Weekends. They have swum the equivalent of 26 times around the world and raised £34m for charity.

To register for The Swimathon Weekend visit swimathon.org