Commonwealth Games: Rebecca Adlington on how the Games inspired her

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The Commonwealth Games have begun in Birmingham, with athletes from across the world coming to the Midlands to compete.

Swimmer Rebecca Adlington won Gold at the Olympic Games in Beijing, Bronze in London, and Gold once more at the Commonwealth Games in Delhli.

She told the Sky News Daily podcast about how the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester inspired her to pursue swimming as a full-time career, and what she hopes the legacy of Birmingham 2022 will be.

I think my journey into swimming was very similar to most people's, in that it's your parents' choice. Swimming is such a young sport. I mean, I was three when I started and so it kind of wasn't me driving it at that age. It's your parents wanting to make sure that you're safe in water, of course, it's such an important life skill.

I've got two older sisters, and both of them could obviously fully swim by the time I came along, so I think we were so used to being in the pool.

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I think being from a small town really helped as well - there wasn't a huge amount to do. Yet we were so lucky in Mansfield that in this small little town we had two swimming pools. I know that's so rare, because so many places up and down the country don't even have one, and yet we had two. Everyone can swim in Mansfield because the facilities are there.

Manchester Commonwealth Games 2002, my parents got me tickets - the whole family, not just me! We went and sat in the stands, and it was one of those [moments] that was just absolutely incredible.

I'd never been to a big event like that. My dad would take me to football matches and things, but not swimming, which was the sport that I loved. I remember being sat there and watching Ian Thorpe, the Australian swimmer, who was just unbelievable. He was kind of like the big star, if you like, in the sport, and I remember just seeing him race and just being blown away.

It was that moment that I really just was like, "I want to do this, this is what I want to do as I grow up. It was a pipe dream at that age, but it got me really inspired and really showcased the sport to me as well.

What makes any live sport brilliant is you don't appreciate the speed on telly. I think on telly it looks like they're going at an okay pace and you're like, fine. When you see something live, we were like: "Oh my gosh, they are so quick."

I just couldn't believe it. I'd only seen club level, I was 12, 13 years old, so I had never seen anyone swim that fast before, so I think it was just the sheer amazement.

The atmosphere in Manchester for that Commonwealth Games was unbelievable. They had packed out the stands. It was a full stadium. I wasn't used to that. I'd been to a few galas that was just full of mums and dads and they're just cheering for their child. Never that sort of crowd before, and that sort of atmosphere, and just the noise, at a swimming event. And I was like, this is just so special.

Without the Manchester Commonwealth Games and me just being sat in the crowd, who knows if I'd have been as inspired. I think there are going to be so many people like that in Birmingham, so they're going to be great role models even if you're not physically there watching on telly. That's a huge legacy for sport.

We only have to look at the London Olympics. You can go to the stadium, you can go to the pool, and it's absolutely incredible that, ten years on from Olympics, you can still go and swim in an Olympic pool. I have been to many countries that have hosted Olympic Games and, actually, the venues you either can't access or they're not great.

We have such a fundamental legacy - I think Birmingham is going to do exactly the same.

As told to Niall Patterson for the Sky News Daily podcast

Editing and additional writing - David Chipakupaku

Senior podcast producer - Annie Joyce

Interviews producer - Alys Bowen

Podcast promotion producer - David Chipakupaku

Editors - Paul Stanworth & Philly Beaumont

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