Olympic winner Duncan Goodhew in Portsmouth to back swimming scheme

The countryside surrounding Harting Down in the South Downs National Park, in West Sussex.

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GETTING half a million more people swimming regularly might seem like a big job.

But that’s the aim of a challenge launched at the Mountbatten Centre in Portsmouth yesterday by Olympic gold medallist Duncan Goodhew.

(l-r) Sarah Porter from Portsmouth, Abbey Coe from Portsmouth and Norma Davison from Fareham with Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer Duncan Goodhew MBE at Mountbatten Leisure Centre.''Picture: Sarah Standing (131706-9045)

(l-r) Sarah Porter from Portsmouth, Abbey Coe from Portsmouth and Norma Davison from Fareham with Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer Duncan Goodhew MBE at Mountbatten Leisure Centre.''Picture: Sarah Standing (131706-9045)

He gave tips to swimmers who had been picked to help launch the British Gas and SwimBritain partnership.

It aims to get 500,000 more people swimming across the country.

Duncan, who won a gold medal in the 100m breast stroke at the 1980 Moscow games, said: ‘It’s a fantastic idea. It’s a relay for people to improve their swimming and you get to swim in the magnificent setting of the Mountbatten Centre.’

As part of the project, everyone who signs up will also get four half-hour lessons to get coached on their swimming technique.

Duncan added: ‘The lessons are important because people get comfortable with their technique and swimming becomes less of a challenge.

‘It is a great way to exercise and just a few tips can help improve a stroke and your fitness.

‘But for me, the most important thing about the partnership is to get 500,000 new swimmers over the next three years.

‘It’s important to the whole team to get people into the pool because swimming is the best form of exercise for someone to do. It liberates you when you get in the water but it’s not abrasive to your body, it doesn’t wear out joints and it burns a massive amount of calories.’

Duncan spent the morning at Mountbatten Centre with three women who were chosen to help with the launch.

Abbey Coe, 37, and Sarah Porter, 49, are part of the SwimBritain team.

Norma Davison, from Fareham, was asked the day before if she’d take part.

She said: ‘I’m only a regular swimmer so I was surprised when I was asked.’

Duncan was practising for when he does the relay on September 15.

He will be joining in with the fun with three other people to make a team of four to cover 4,000m.

The relay at the Mountbatten Centre will have each person completing four 250m laps. For more information or to enter a team visit swimbritain.co.uk