The lengths (and widths) they go to... Frank Skinner dives in

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Comedian overcomes his fear of swimming to complete a length for Sport Relief

Frank Skinner has overcome his lifelong fear of water to complete a length of a swimming pool – despite a panic attack.

The comedian swallowed some water during his feat in Sport Relief but battled through, encouraged by a crowd of supporters including Adrian Chiles and Clare Balding.

Skinner swam his 25 metres at the Barnet Copthall Leisure Centre in north London. The 55-year-old, who is due to become a father later this year, underwent eight weeks of training to overcome his phobia.

"Towards the end I had one of my little panics that I often have – but I could hear the crowd and I just thought 'No, no, I can't stop now' and I kept going. I was half drowning, half choking – it was a good advert for terror," he said.

As he rose from the pool at the end of his ordeal, Skinner was given a congratulatory hug by his trainer David Tatler. He said afterwards: "I'm absolutely knocked out. I'm so relieved and excited. I lay in bed last night thinking about all the different ways I wouldn't finish that length.

"I want someone to learn to swim because of this. I know it looked really tough and frightening but I've had a good laugh and it will stay with me for ever."

While Skinner was conquering his fear, in Salford groups of schoolchildren were soaking up the atmosphere as they watched the Queen start a special Sport Relief Mile.

Her Royal Highness and The Duke Of Edinburgh were visiting MediaCityUK – the new home of BBC North in Manchester – where they launched a BBC staff run ahead of the nationwide event on Sunday.

On their tour of Manchester and Salford, the Queen and the Duke unveiling two plaques, one at the BBC studios, where Match Of The Day and CBeebies are recorded, and another at Quay House, the home of BBC Sport.

In the studios, owned by Peel Holdings, they listened to the BBC staff choir and The Salford Family Orchestra.

BBC journalist David Waters ran in the staff mile and was alsoin the staff choir. "We were just settling in on our singing, when they stopped us and told us the mile was starting," he said. "Everyone was together and in such a good mood and it was great that the Queen graced us with her presence," he added.

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