TAKE advantage of the new facilities and don’t be afraid to try something new.
That was the message from double Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington when she visited Stratford Leisure Centre at the weekend.
The Bridgefoot centre has recently undergone a £5 million refurbishment and to celebrate the end of the project, Everyone Active, which manages the building on behalf of Stratford District Council, invited members of the public along for an open day on Saturday (October 3).
It is the second time Rebecca has visited the centre after she opened the temporary pool provided as part of the British Gas ‘Pools for Schools Programme’ earlier this year.
And the 26-year-old, who retired from swimming in 2013 but continues to mentor some of Britain’s biggest medal hopes ahead of Rio 2016, was keen to encourage everyone to enjoy the newly-revamped centre.
Speaking exclusively to The Observer, she said: “It’s wonderful to be in Stratford and celebrate everything that has gone on since I was last here. Everyone involved in the project has done a great job and the transformation is incredible.
“It feels like I’m walking into a brand new centre not a refurbished one and, in a time when a lot of other centres are cutting back on their budgets, that’s a really huge thing.
“Everything is so modern, clean and bright and it’s just a lovely environment to be in whether you’re learning to swim for the first time or just coming here for pleasure.”
She added: “Often when you live somewhere, you have a tendency to take things for granted, but I would urge people to come and take a look at the centre for themselves.
“Not only that, but don’t be afraid to try something for the first time. Whether it’s the new climbing walls, the swimming pools, or the virtual classes, there really is something for all ages now.
“Most facilities tend to be further out of the town but the people of Stratford are incredibly lucky to have such a top class facility on their doorstep and I really hope they embrace that by getting involved and taking advantage of everything it has to offer.”
Rebecca, who won gold in the 400m and 800m events at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and two bronzes at London 2012, was joined on her latest visit by Team GB water polo player, Rosie Morris, triple Commonwealth gold medallist swimmer, James Goddard and synchronised swimmer, Zoe Cooper.
Around 120 children tried their hand at water polo, fast swimming, life saving and synchronised swimming as part of the event, which was hosted by Total Swimming founder and Olympian, Steve Parry.
Kids also had the chance to race the athletes across the revamped 33m pool and took part in a question and answer session before getting to grips with the centre’s eight climbing walls.
Gareth Wagg, Everyone Active’s general manager, said the turnout had far exceeded his expectations.
And district council technical services spokesman, Mike Brain, added: “We are very pleased to have invested £5million in this project – Stratford is a world class town and it needs a world class leisure centre.
“There are many things to be proud of in the town and this venue is now one of them.”