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Swimming legend Keri-anne Payne launches Great East Swim 2017 at Wattisham Airfield

PUBLISHED: 14:21 15 February 2017 | UPDATED: 08:38 02 March 2017

Former Olympic swimmer Keri-anne Payne launches the Great East Swim 2017 at Wattisham Airfield. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Former Olympic swimmer Keri-anne Payne launches the Great East Swim 2017 at Wattisham Airfield. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The open water swimming event will return to Alton Water Reservoir on Saturday, June 17.

Thousands of people took part in the Great East Swim 2016 at Alton Water.Thousands of people took part in the Great East Swim 2016 at Alton Water.

More than 2,000 people of all ages and abilities, from first timers to experienced open water swimmers, have taken on the Great East Swim in recent years as the event continues to grow.

Distances range from a 1/2 mile up to the challenging marathon 10k swim. See here to sign up.

Keri-anne Payne, a two-time open water world champion and Olympic silver medallist, has backed this year’s event and urged people to take part in the “rewarding experience”.

She said: “I hope more people across Suffolk will be inspired to get involved in open water swimming this year.

Thousands of people took part in the Great East Swim 2016 at Alton Water.Thousands of people took part in the Great East Swim 2016 at Alton Water.

“The idea of swimming in open water can seem daunting for some people but it’s an amazing feeling to take part with thousands of others in a picturesque location.

“Whether you’re looking to try an open water swim for the first time, complete a personal challenge or to swim for a worthy cause, the Great East Swim the perfect event to sign up to.”

The former Team GB swimmer, who retired from the sport last month, met personnel from Wattisham Flying Station who will be taking on the Great East Swim.

The group aims to encourage more of the airfield’s armed forces, many of who are triathletes, to take on the challenge of an open water swim in Suffolk.

Former Olympic swimmer Keri-anne Payne launches the Great East Swim 2017 at Wattisham Airfield. Picture: GREGG BROWNFormer Olympic swimmer Keri-anne Payne launches the Great East Swim 2017 at Wattisham Airfield. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The Great East Swim is run by the same organisers behind the inaugural Great East Run, which will see thousands of runners take on the revamped Ipswich Half Marathon. To sign up to the Great East Run, see here.

Meanwhile, two Suffolk charities also attended the Great East Swim 2017 launch today. The Blossom Charity aims to make women make positive changes in their lives and provides a support network for anyone wanting to swim for the charity.

Its founder Bridget McIntyre said: “Three years ago my colleagues and I decided we wanted a big challenge. We had never swum in open water but we did it. It was challenging, tough and exhilarating.

“A year later, we were back again but with a much larger team taking on the challenge and fundraising.”

Inspire Suffolk uses sport as a way to enhance education and bring people together.

Chief executive Terry Baxter said: “The Great East Swim illustrates so clearly that to achieve in life, there is always a requirement to be dedicated, brave, hardworking and determined.

“These are messages we employ every day in our work with young people experiencing severe disadvantage and social instability and as we help them achieve purposeful reintegration into society.”

The Great East Swim also includes an outreach programme, run by Suffolk County Council.

See here for more details about the outreach scheme.

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