Paralympian Rachel Latham is encouraging young people in Bolton to follow in her footsteps and take up swimming in time for the 2012 Olympics.
Rachel is hotly tipped for medal glory at the London games and has pledged her support to Bolton’s FreeBie scheme in a bid to see more people take up the sport.
As part of the scheme, young people aged 16 and under can learn to swim for free during each school holiday at all of Bolton’s Community Leisure Centres.
To celebrate 12 months of free swimming lessons in Bolton, Rachel went along to Horwich Leisure Centre, where she puts in many hours of training, to meet some young swimmers.
She said: “It’s really good to see so many young people enjoying themselves in the pool. The free swimming scheme will help everyone to live healthier, happier lives. In the run up to the London 2012 Olympics we need to encourage everyone to get involved in sport …and who knows who the next champion might be?”
Since free swimming lessons were launched in July 2008, more than 1,600 young people have been taught how to swim.
Mum Emma Liderth was delighted to see how well her daughter, Abigail Liderth, had progressed. She said: “The swimming course has really helped to build Emma’s confidence. Within the space of a week she had learned to swim without armbands. It’s such a great idea to have the scheme and even better that it’s free!”
The lessons are only available during school holidays and must be booked well in advance. However, people aged 16 and under can enjoy free swimming sessions for fun all year round. The FreeBie scheme also offers free casual swimming at all times to anyone aged 60 and over.
Free leisure activities such as Thai Chi, badminton, gym sessions and much more are also available for those aged 65 and over.
Councillor Linda Thomas, Executive Member for Corporate Resources and Health, said: “I am delighted Bolton is taking this opportunity to encourage more people to get active. Our FreeBie scheme has really started to make a difference to people’s lives and is inspiring the feel-good factor that regular exercise can deliver.”
Richard Saunders, Vice-Chair of Bolton's Community Leisure Trust: “As a Trust we are committed to improving the health of the community and encouraging people to take up activities. Swimming is one of the most popular and best all-round ways of exercising and an excellent and fun way to stay healthy.”
Participants should have a Smart Card in order to benefit from the FreeBie scheme, which can be obtained from the One Stop Shop at Bolton Town Hall or any library.
Alternatively, they can contact 01204 334123 for Bolton Smart Card (over 16s) and 01204 334917 for BSmart Card (11 to 16s).
Details of FreeBie are available - click on the link on the right hand side.