Karen immortalised at pool

SWIMMING legend Karen Pickering has struck gold again when her hands and feet were cast for a commemorative golden plaque.

SWIMMING legend Karen Pickering has struck gold again when her hands and feet were cast for a commemorative golden plaque.

It was commissioned at Crown Pools in Ipswich by the National Lottery, honouring the four times World Swimming Champion's sporting achievements.

The event was part of a celebration of world class British athletes in the run up to the 2012 London Olympic Games - others immortalised in this way include Sir Steve Redgrave, Duncan Goodhew and Sally Gunnell.

Karen, the most decorated female swimmer of all time, said: “I think it is a great idea in the run up to the 2012 Olympic Games, it is really cool to have my hands and feet cast forever.

“I am very proud to have represented Great Britain in swimming but being recognised like this here in Ipswich, where I did all my training, is a huge thrill.”

The event also helped celebrate the launch of the National Lottery's new Go For Gold scratchcard, part which will help raise money to help stage the games.

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The National Lottery will be providing almost £2.2 billion to the funding package for the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

Liz Parker, from Camelot, said: “The money from these designated games will help provide facilities and infrastructure, such as the aquatic centre and Velo Park and the stadiums.”

As well as preparing to help cover the Beijing Olympics for Radio 5 Live this summer, Karen is currently on our screens going head to head with other world class athletes in the Channel Five series Superstars.

She competed in a range of events including tug of war, diving, beat the keeper and gym tests - but Karen had clear favourites.

“I felt most confident in the swimming events of course, but I really enjoyed rowing and biking and other endurance events, I hated the diving though. I haven broken my back and so was really worried about hurting myself again, no-one else wanted to do the event so I had to,” she said.

In her role as Ipswich Sports Ambassador, Karen is involved in supporting young athletes from our region.

In the run up to the Beijing Games and the 2012 London Games there are some young local athletes with a good chance of representing their country.

“I don't want to put too much pressure on him but the Ipswich-based swimmer Chris Walker-Hebborn is a real hopeful for the 2012 Games.

“But we can't forget about Beijing, especially as we have Jo Ellis the hockey player from Ipswich competing,” she said.