EXCLUSIVE: I'll be going for gold and then getting on my bike, says Adlington
22:05 GMT, 10 July 2012
After Rebecca Adlington became a double Olympic champion in Beijing four years ago she was given a 460 pair of gold-coloured Jimmy Choo high heels.
Her plans after she attempts to defend her titles in London could not be more different: she is going on a 280-mile four-day charity bike ride across Zambia.
While most of her team-mates will be enjoying a well-earned holiday, Adlington will train for six weeks before setting off on her adventure in early October.
Long road ahead: Defending Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington with Sportsmail's Laura Williamson
‘Am I a glutton for punishment’ she asks, laughing. ‘I know I am. It’s an absolute nightmare.
‘I’d always said that after the Games I’ll take two or three months off. I was thinking I had Keri-Anne Payne’s wedding, I would get to go on holiday and chill out.
'But no — I’m going to be in six weeks of hard training for a bike ride and then trying to cycle 280 miles.
‘It’s something completely out of my comfort zone. That’s what made me jump on board. I didn’t even need to think about it. I was like, “Yes, count me in!” ’
There are, however, a few things about this admirable idea that are worrying Adlington. The fact she hasn’t been on a bike for 12 years and is ‘awful’ at training in the gym is a particular concern.
Eyes onthe prize: Adlington admits she's a glutton for punishment in the gym
‘I think I need more confidence on the bike,’ she adds ahead of her ordeal with 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Jo Jackson, 2006 Commonwealth Games 200m freestyle champion Ross Davenport and former British swimmer Mel Marshall.
She says: ‘It sounds really stupid but I would be more scared about falling off. I’m used to being in a pool and having nobody near me, let alone cycling next to me or on a road with cars.’
Adlington confesses she is generally ‘awful’ at any sport other than swimming but, then again, not many of us can give Sir Chris Hoy a quick call for some advice about cycling.
‘I’m going to be ringing him up and saying, “Come on a bike ride with me!” I’m going to be annoying. I’m just going to pester him for advice and stuff. Maybe I can swap a swimming lesson for a cycle lesson’
But the challenge will not just be a physical one. There are the inevitable creepy- crawlies that will plague the group as they cycle along bumpy roads from Livingstone to Lusaka, staying in family homes along the way.
There are the lack of home comforts — ‘I’m not taking my hair straighteners, definitely not. Where would I plug those bad boys in Although maybe I’ll take nail polish and something chocolatey, like a bag of Buttons.’
It will certainly not be glamorous but Adlington, 23, is clearly excited and energised about trying something different.
The group’s aim is to raise 50,000 to build a new physiotherapy wing at an Aids hospice in Lusaka and help to fund the work of Sport in Action, an organisation who try to inspire and develop young people through sport.
Wheely impressive: Adlington will be joined by Ross Davenport and Joanne Jackson
‘I love the fact we’re staying in random places along the way,’ she says. ‘We’re not going in five-star hotels. We are roughing it — and we’re doing it how it should be done.
'Hopefully the money will come in and we’ll raise enough to make a big difference. I don’t know, maybe bike riding will become my new thing!’
First, of course, Adlington has the small task of trying to defend her Olympic 400 metres and 800m freestyle titles at a home Games. She wears a ring with the Olympic symbol and also has a tattoo of it on her lower back.
They are constant reminders of her achievements four years ago. She says: ‘All of us swimmers got these rings before Beijing. It’s about what we’re looking forward to but also what we’ve achieved. I wear it every day and never take it off.
‘Whatever happens in London nobody can take away what I did in Beijing. If I come third or fourth or last I would’ve done everything I can so there’s no point stressing about stuff I can’t control.’
Rebecca Adlington is supporting British Gas’ Free Swims for Britain campaign (www.britishgas.co.uk/freeswimming). To sponsor Rebecca go to: http://www.justgiving.com/ZambiaCycle