Video: In at the deep end with Olympic swim star Ellie

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Having the chance to take part in any sport alongside an Olympic athlete doesn’t take much thinking about.

But when that sport is swimming then I had to wonder whether it was worth putting myself through the humiliation of flapping around the Ponds Forge pool while trying to pretend I knew what I was on about.

Star reporter Richard Fidler with Olympians Ellie Faulkner (centre) and Monique Gladding at Ponds Forge.

Star reporter Richard Fidler with Olympians Ellie Faulkner (centre) and Monique Gladding at Ponds Forge.

I needn’t have worried.

The Olympian in question, Sheffield’s Ellie Faulkner, and swimming instructor Vicky Norman were the perfect coaches as they guided me on my way.

The aim of the exercise is to get people like me - reasonably active, but non-regular swimmers - to get back in the pool again.

British Swimming and British Gas have teamed-up to launch SwimBritain, a series of 4,000m swimming relays taking place around Britain this September.

It’s quite a daunting challenge if you’re not a very strong swimmer.

However, the scheme is designed to help.

Four free coaching sessions are offered to people who enter SwimBritain, and having been put through my paces by Ellie and Vicky I can definitely say they help.

The main problem is learning to breath correctly while doing the front crawl.

Like most things it’s a question of technique and practice. Even Olympic diver Monique Gladding, who was part of the same session as me, benefited from the advice.

Ellie, who now has her sights set on the Rio de Janeiro Games of 2016, said: “The SwimBritain challenge is a great way to get people involved in the sport again.

“The coaching sessions are designed to help people feel confident in the water in preparation for the events later this year.”

The three different challenges are, ‘SwimBritain’ a four-person relay of 250 metres each, that is repeated four times. There is a ‘Little SwimBritain’ which is a relay but in legs of 125m.

And a ‘SwimBritain DIY’ for solo swimmers.

Sheffield’s challenge day is Sunday, September 1 at Ponds Forge.

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