Rebecca Adlington: London Olympics legacy will take time

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London 2012 career peak - Adlington

British swimming legend Rebecca Adlington believes it is too early to judge the true legacy of London 2012.

Adlington, who won double gold in Beijing in 2008 and two bronze medals last summer, told BBC East Midlands Today: "Legacy is a difficult subject.

"People want to see it happen straight away, which I don't think is the case.

"For me, what will be a nice moment is in 10 or 15 years, seeing someone come out of a pool or velodrome and saying, 'I was inspired by London'."

Adlington became the first British woman to win Olympic gold since 1960 when she secured a shock victory in the 400m freestyle in Beijing and followed that up with victory and a world record in the 800m.

Four years on from that incredible achievement, which inspired many new swimmers in this country, the 24-year-old Mansfield-born swimmer won two bronze medals in London.

Since then, her life has changed dramatically. In the last 12 months, she has retired, got engaged and moved away from her Nottinghamshire roots.

Her career is still centred around swimming and she loves helping the next generation.

"That is what legacy is about - those people that are in school nowadays," Adlington said. "The facilities in London will help the legacy but I also think athletes have a responsibility as well.

"We are the ones who have hopefully been role models and can hopefully encourage more and more people.

"I like going to schools and doing things like that because seeing the kids' faces light up and have that spark or passion is amazing.

"A lot of athletes have taken that role on. A lot of athletes have gone into schools and clubs and it's brilliant to see that.

"There are so many of us so it's nice that not one athlete feels we are being stretched and pulled. We have all spread around done local stuff and done stuff across the country and hopefully we have inspired a lot of kids whatever their passion is."

Her memories of the summer of 2012 are still strong and she says the emotions and support she felt when she stood on the podium at her home Games still give her "goosebumps".

She said: "It's gone so fast. A lot has happened for me in the last year and so much is different but we all still look back and think what a magical summer it was.

"I still remember every painful moment of the race. I remember thinking I did everything I could. I didn't regret anything because I knew I had given it 110%.

"That was the highlight of my Games last summer, hearing all the people chanting my name. It was an unbelievable moment and probably the highlight of my entire career.

"When I won gold it was incredible and probably the best feeling I have ever got and the proudest I have ever been.

"But [being on] the podium [in London] was so heart-warming. It affected me more in that way. It changed everything. I couldn't believe it and I didn't realise how much support I had."

The number of people attending the Rebecca Adlington Swimming Centre in her home town went up by 31% in the 12 months to May 2013 and Mansfield mayor Tony Eggington said the London effect could be felt locally.

"Following on from the Olympics and in our case the success of Rebecca Adlington and our Paralympic swimmers Sam and Ollie Hynd and Charlotte Henshaw, there has been a considerable increase both in swimming as a leisure activity and as formal lessons.

"The challenge is to sustain that level of interest and keep the momentum going so we can help produce another champion," he said.

"Annual sporting events such as Inspiring Mansfield and the Fastest Kid in Mansfield competition are great ways to encourage young people to get fit and stay active, while having fun.

"The Active Mansfield campaign, fronted by Ollie and Charlotte, aims to encourage people across the district to increase their activity levels and we hope the next generation will be inspired to take up sport and continue Mansfield's great sporting legacy."

Adlington believes the impact of London 2012 was far reaching and not just limited to her sport.

"It doesn't necessarily even have to be sport," she added. "It's nice when kids come up to you saying 'I drew this yesterday or I sang in this competition'.

"It's amazing to see the kids having that drive and passion and they are the people we will be seeing on television in 15 years' time."

Adlington will be part of the BBC television team covering the 2013 World Swimming Championships in Barcelona from 29 July.

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