Saturday saw Team Neat head to Hyde Park, along with an estimated 6,000 other swimmers, for the inaugural Swim Serpentine. The mass participation swim is the capital’s first, taking place in the same lake used for the 2012 London Olympics. A total of 18 waves of 300+ swimmers set off throughout the day to swim a mile, 1600m.
With two ex-GB swimmers in our midst, at least half of Team Neat felt confident! Our team had shrunk from five to four when Chess had to pull out due to illness, but the rest of us were raring to go… except Catty, she was less raring and more terrified.
Team Neat were swimming for our chosen charity, SportsAid. Charlie and Lee understand how important their support is to young people wanting a life in sport, having pursued it themselves since they were teenagers. SportsAid helps the next generation of British sports stars by giving them financial support and recognition during the critical early stages of their careers.
This year alone, more than 400 athletes who represented Team GB and ParalympicsGB in Rio at both the Olympics and Paralympics have received help from SportsAid during their development, so it was with their inspirational performances in mind, that we donned our wetsuits and headed for the banks of Hyde Park’s famous river. The water was 18C and wetsuits had been obtained. It was the first time any of us had actually swum in open water, or worn a wetsuit, but we like a challenge at Team Neat.
Strategy was quickly determined. Lee, Charlie and Rob would head to the front and enter the water first, racing to see which of the three would claim victory and thus, bragging rights for at least a week. Catty, aiming to just complete the swim without assistance from the safety boats, headed to the back to avoid the splash of the pack. Following encouragement from the SportsAid team and a safety briefing from Swim Serpentine, our green wave entered the water at 12.30pm to the sounds of the Baywatch theme.
The water was fresh and supporters lined the banks of the Serpentine to shout encouragement while we made our way around the buoys that marked the course. With little visibility, we just pushed on, unable to see much more than your own hands gliding through the water.
Rob, Lee and Charlie made it of the water within seconds of one another: Rob took the victory (and bragging rights) with a time of 23 minutes, 21 seconds, securing the top place for his age group across the entire day. Lee was out 47 seconds later with Charlie just 3 seconds behind Lee. Catty pushed on and managed a 40 minute finish time – the boys waiting to congratulate her on not being pulled out of the water!
We had an awesome day and a big thank you to SportsAid who were so supportive of our challenge!