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Speedo Queen | Q&A with Karen Pickering



- Full version of interview seen in Debenhams online magazine

As one of the world’s leading swimwear brands Speedo knows a thing or two about making a splash and staying on top.

With top swimmers like Kerri-Ann Payne, Michael Jamieson and former World and Commonwealth gold medalist Karen Pickering involved, it’s no surprise it’s remained afloat.

We look at its great swimwear and have an exclusive Q&A with four-time Olympian, and Speedo ambassador, Karen Pickering MBE.

Karen Pickering made her international senior debut in 1986 and after being selected at just 14 to swim for Great Britain.

She competed in four consecutive summer Olympic games, beginning with Barcelona in 1992.

She won her first medal in 1993 at the inaugural Short Course World Championships where she clinched gold in the 200m freestyle becoming Britain’s first swimming world champion.

Her haul of medals from 1986 to 2005 includes eight World Championship medals (four gold), 14 European Championship medals, 38 National Championship titles, and a Commonwealth Games medal haul of 13 including four golds.

In 2002 at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, Karen carried the English flag at the closing ceremony.

For her services to swimming Karen was awarded an MBE in the 1994 New Year’s Honours List.

Debenhams Magazine (DM): Were you a good swimmer when you were younger?
Karen Pickering (KP): Not to begin with, I nearly drowned while learning, but I loved swimming and worked hard to improve.

DM: Who encouraged you to get involved in competitive swimming?
KP: Mostly it was my mum, Deedee, who was a competitive swimmer herself in Holland.

DM: Can you remember your first swimming competition?
KP: I remember the first race I won. It was the 25m butterfly at the Luton Open Meet when I was nine.

DM: What was it like representing Great Britain at such a young age?
KP: In 1986 at 14, I went straight from the GB junior team to the GB senior team. It was a huge change and I had to grow up quickly and learn to take care of myself. But it was also very exciting and I can still remember receiving the letter to say I’d been picked for the team. I was so shocked and happy!

DM: What were your favourite disciplines?
KP: Initially 50m & 100m freestyle, then in about 1992 I started doing the 200m freestyle more too.

DM: What was the worst thing about being an elite swimmer?
KP: Getting up so early for training!  Before 5am, six mornings a week.

DM: …and the best thing?
KP: So many things! The travel, the competitions, the banter, the great feeling of swimming well and winning, amazing team mates, the pride of representing my country and getting to do what I loved every day.

DM: What were your emotions watching London host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012 having participated in four Olympic Games yourself?
KP: It was incredible. [I was] so proud of us for putting on such a spectacular event and couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be commentating for the BBC and Channel 4 and so getting to see so much live. Slightly jealous it wasn’t during my career!

DM: What was it like winning Commonwealth Games gold in front of a home crowd in 2002 and carrying the Union Flag at the closing ceremony in Manchester?
KP: It was very special. I had come back from breaking my back in a car accident and some people in swimming felt I should’ve quit, so it felt good to prove them wrong &and to win in front of the people who had supported me including my family, my coach Dave Champion and friends.

DM: What would be your advice to any youngster with an interest in swimming?
KP: You can’t get around the hard work needed. Practice the little things such as starts, turns and finishes all the time and always try to have perfect technique no matter if it’s the warm up, swim down or main set.

DM: And regardless of wanting to race, how important is it to learn to swim?
KP: It can save your life or you could save someone else’s…need I say more?!

DM: Describe being involved with Speedo…
KP: Having been with Speedo as an elite swimmer it is perfect to still be working with them but with a different focus now. I’m very passionate about using swimming to get fit, toned and to lose weight and Speedo shares that passion. They always were and still are a great company to be involved with.

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