Rebecca Adlington: I'd love to win Strictly. Oh, and I'm scared of the sea

Adlington opens up on 5am starts, 50m pools and controversial swimsuits
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The Independent Online

It may not be possible to place a bet on Rebecca Adlington winning Strictly Come Dancing in 2013. Not so much because it's a long way off as because it's hard to imagine any bookmaker being daft enough to take your money. She would dearly love to take part in the programme, Adlington admitted last week, but only once London 2012 is out of the way. Then she could apply herself properly.

Given what we have learnt about the commitment of this phenomenal young swimmer since she burst into the public consciousness by winning two gold medals at the Beijing Olympics last year, you cannot help feeling the result would be a foregone conclusion.

Perhaps only now is the scale of Adlington's achievement last year beginning to be fully appreciated. In that respect, her second place in the 400m final of the British championships in Sheffield earlier this month, a finger's width behind Joanne Jackson with both breaking the old world record, was a case in point.

As her coach, Bill Furniss, has said, Adlington had no right to compete so ferociously at such an early stage in her post-Beijing training. But that, of course, is why being back in a training regime – which starts with rising at 5.20am to plough up and down the 25m council-owned Beechdale pool in Nottingham, surrounded by fellow members of the city's Leander swimming club – is bearable.

It would be better, she said, to have permanent access to a 50m pool instead of having to go over to Loughborough twice a week but, typically, she is not inclined to make a fuss.

"I'd much prefer to be training daily in a 50m pool, because you know that's what your competitors around the world are doing," she said. "But I've got a fantastic coach, the drive to train wherever I am, and I do the hard work no matter what, so for me it's not been such a big issue."

However, she does not hesitate to call for better facilities for those who take swimming seriously. "I know there are plans for some of the pools to be refurbished, which is great, but there needs to be more put into facilities. When we go to America there seems to be a 50m pool every few miles. We've a massive way to go."

Having raised the profile of her sport so dramatically, Adlington accepts her opinion is going to be sought on issues relating to swimming and, as always, she expresses herself with unaffected openness and natural common sense. She doesn't believe, for example, that the new buoyant swimsuits in which so many world records have been broken should be banned – as long as they are available to every competitor, and there are controls on the material used. It also bemuses her that she has to keep drug testers informed of her whereabouts on a daily basis, while professional footballers with far less stringent training regimes object to the idea.

The other side of being in the public eye she finds harder to comprehend. "I understand people are interested, in that they want to know what I do, and I've come from nowhere, but to want my opinion on some point that's not relevant to what I do, it's crazy. They want you to answer questions on everything. It's a bit bizarre."

At the same time, there are financial realities to consider. "Swimming is going to come to an end, and there's going to be a point when I want to get married, have kids, set up house. That's why everybody works, and you have to think ahead. I don't want too much money but I'd like to be secure enough to send my kids to university, to be able to let them do whatever they want. So there's stuff you do and you don't necessarily want to because it's good money. You have to find the balance."

But one thing she will not do is take on a high-profile stunt such as attempting to break the record for swimming the Channel. "Ooh no, you wouldn't get me in open water. I'm scared of the sea."

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