The British success at the European Championships in Budapest last week was amazing to see, with 26 medals – including 11 gold – picked up in swimming alone, and so many names stepping up ahead of Tokyo 2020.
I’ve seen some great British swimming line-ups over the years, but I think this is the most exciting team we will ever have sent to an Olympic Games. Adam Peaty is the obvious standout and as long as he is fit I believe he will sweep the board again. He just keeps getting better.
Of course, all of this is assuming the Games can safely take place, and for the sake of our nation of swimmers, I really hope it can.
The elite athletes have been training and preparing for this moment for so long, while at a grassroots level the nation could do with the boost of inspiration that the Games can give. Swimming needs people back in the water, and a big medal haul would certainly help.
I was at Manchester Aquatics Centre last week to launch the Swimathon Festival for 2021, a wonderful initiative I have been involved with for more than a decade.
Swimathon helps to raise money for Marie Curie and Cancer Research. In the current climate, charities have been hit as hard as anyone by Covid – Swimathon needs swimmers back in the water for the benefit of others as much as themselves.
We know that swimming is a wonderful boost for both physical and mental health, but it can also be a great help to charities thanks to events like Swimathon.
5m swimming lessons lost to lockdown
Being at the Aquatics Centre brought back my own memories, as the Commonwealth Games was held here in 2002 in front of a capacity crowd.
It still looks just as good today, and it was so nice to see a full class of youngsters arriving at the pool for their lesson while I was poolside. The new generation is out there, we just need to protect the pools for their sake.
A recent report by Swim England indicated that around 240,000 kids have missed out on swimming a 25m length during the pandemic, while over 5m swimming lessons were lost as a result of lockdowns. That is an incredible number, so we need to ensure these people can get back in the water when they want to and feel ready.
Success at Tokyo 2020 can inspire a new generation into the water, and help to turn those numbers around. If they can raise some money for charity via the Swimathon Festival while they do it, then charities can feel the benefit too.
Step by step, length by length, we will recover. And Peaty and co can help to inspire us on that journey.
Mark Foster is a former multiple world champion and one of Britain’s most successful swimmers. Swimathon Festival 2021 entries are open now. For more information head to www.swimathonfoundation.org