Duncan Goodhew dives into troubled waters to help swimming from going under

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Duncan Goodhew watched Adam Peaty swim against an artificial current in a tank in his back yard and cracked a smile.

“This is what we do,” the legend of yesteryear chuckled as the successor to his Olympic 100 metres breaststroke crown battled adversity in a rather British way.

“We quietly are a nation of swimmers. Until recently we had more people swimming than cyclists cycling or runners running. There’s nothing quite like it.”

At which point Goodhew’s brow furrowed. Peaty has returned to a pool of sorts determined to maintain the gulf in class between him and his rivals which makes even social distancing look uncomfortably close.

But in a world where swim facilities and leisure centres are closed as part of the lockdown, Goodhew knows the Staffordshire pool terrier is a special case.

The swimming community, in common with so much of grass roots sport, faces a fight like never before to stay afloat as businesses struggle to keep their heads above water.

“We are experiencing a period which is devastating to a lot of people,” admitted the hero of Moscow 40 years ago.

“Small aquatic clubs, swim schools, independent organisations, all kept alive in good times by a few people struggling to make ends meet, face the very real possibility of going out of business with no classes to teach.”

The glory brought to the sport by Peaty, with his Rio gold and numerous world records, is a far cry from the grass roots pain being felt by swimming clubs and teachers battling not to sink without trace in these choppiest of financial waters.

Which is why Goodhew, president of the Swimathon Foundation, today launches a coronavirus relief fund offering a lifeline to those at risk of being lost overboard.

“The idea is to help small organisations meet their obligations during this crisis,” he said, detailing how grants of between £250 and £1,000 are now available.

“We hope this will not only help financially but really encourage those who are the backbone of the sport to stay strong.

“This is an incredibly challenging time. Swimming is one of the sports most affected by this crisis. Pools are closed, you can’t swim anywhere.

“It’s down to the resilience of the people running businesses within the sport how much they can tolerate to keep them afloat.”

Rugby league last week received a £16 million emergency government loan to safeguard its immediate future and prevent the sport from total collapse. Goodhew is aware of no similar central help for swimming.

“For any government in this country to fulfil its ambition to get the nation healthier, swimming has to be at the centre of its strategy,” he said.

“Swimming is a run using yoga and for many, those older or with a physical disability, it is their form of exercise.

“If pools had to be shut or sold off that land would be lost and that would be devastating.”

Goodhew has no idea when the lockdown will be lifted but trusts life will return to some sort of normality long before Peaty goes for gold in Tokyo next summer.

“The challenge of a postponed Olympics is that the build-up is now five years and some may fall by the wayside,” he said.

“But another year isn’t going to derail Adam. He has rewritten the book on breaststroke. Absolutely phenomenal.

“He is always striving to improve, ever looking at what he can do that others aren’t. You only need take a peek in his back yard now to see that.”

For details on available grants visit www.swimathonfoundation.org

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