Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington

Rebecca Adlington is a double Olympic gold medal freestyle swimmer but the Team GB champ admits that she avoids the pool when she goes on holiday. In our new series of profiles with leading Olympic hopefuls, Rebecca reveals her travel highs and lows to Nick McGrath.

What is your most memorable holiday?

Splash Universal StudiosRebecca loves visiting Florida's theme parks
Creative Commons / seng1011

It would have to be the theme parks in Florida. I absolutely love it there. I loved it when I first visited as a kid and loved it just as much when we went back when I was 16 or 17. I just had the best time of my life as you get to act like a big kid again. Walt Disney World is amazing and Universal Studios was incredible too, particularly the Islands Of Adventure park. My favourite ride was the Incredible Hulk rollercoaster, which was a ridiculous amount of fun.

What’s your worst ever holiday?

I’ve never had any total shockers but we did book a last minute one once to Tenerife or Spain and the pictures just did not match up. We got there and it was like, ‘Well, where’s the hotel?’ and we were just kind of stood in the middle of nowhere. In the end, we managed to get into a different hotel so it turned out all right in the end but it wasn’t a great start to our holiday.

Which countries haven’t lived up to your expectations?

When we went to Delhi in India last year for the Commonwealth Games, the poverty there was just so upsetting. Obviously we were in a sporting village and we didn’t go out and explore much but even what we saw was shocking. I know India is a poor country but the poverty was just so overwhelming that you just felt so awful even walking around. You felt so sorry for the people there and you just wanted to help.

If you’re competing abroad do you get much chance to sightsee?

Great Wall of ChinaRebecca describes the Great Wall of China as an "incredible" experience
iStockphoto / Thinkstock

We did get a chance to see the Great Wall of China during the Olympics in Beijing which was an absolutely incredible experience. I was offered the opportunity to stay on after the Commonwealth Games in India to see the Taj Mahal but I decided to come home, just because there were too many issues out there with getting ill and the food and stuff. My training is scheduled down to the last day almost so I can’t really afford to be ill for a fortnight.

Athlete’s villages aren’t known for their luxury but have you ever stayed anywhere really opulent?

The Sheraton Hotel we stayed in for the world championships in Shanghai was amazing. If you’re competing you tend to spend a lot of time in your room so if it’s small you can go stir crazy but the rooms there were massive. We had a pillow menu of about six or seven different pillows to choose from and they seemed to clean the room about every hour too, which was incredible.

What do you always travel with?

I always take my laptop to watch movies on – I love a good rom-com or a comedy and if I’m taking books, it’ll be something light hearted to take my mind off the swimming so I might take an autobiography. I usually room share with Keri-Anne Payne, who packs the kitchen sink. She’ll have everything with her right down to some empty black bin liners to used as black outs if the room is too light.

When you’re on a non-working holiday, how do you spend your time?

boatMykonosLast year, Rebecca enjoyed a relaxing beach holiday in Mykonos
iStockphoto / Thinkstock

I went to Mykonos last summer and did absolutely nothing. We just went to the beach or stayed by the pool sunbathing. It was just completely relaxing and we tried to chill out as much as possible.

Swimming dominates your professional life but do you get in the pool on holiday?

I’ve only had two holidays in the last four years and I only ever get a couple of weeks off a year, so when I am away I don’t go near a pool, except to literally jump in to cool down then get straight back out again.

Do you ever get challenged to a race by cheeky holidaymakers?

Not yet but I do occasionally jump in and pretend I can’t swim very well. I might do a couple of lengths of doggy paddle just to see the looks on people’s faces.

Of the countries you have visited, where would you most love to return and explore further?

I’ve been to Australia a couple of times now and visited Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Sydney, Perth and Melbourne and I just love it over there but it’s just so far to travel. You can’t just go there on a two week holiday. You need a lot longer to go and properly explore.

Where do you like visiting in Britain?

I love the Lake District. It’s absolutely amazing up there, especially Lake Windermere. It’s so beautiful and peaceful.

Fingers crossed you strike gold this summer. If you do where would be your ultimate celebratory trip?

Milford Sound waterNew Zealand is where Rebecca would celebrate victory after the London 2012 Olympics
iStockphoto / Thinkstock

I’d take a long, extended break to New Zealand. I’ve seen so many pictures of the beautiful scenery and spoken to so many people who’ve been there that I’d love to spend some quality time down there getting to see the whole country.

* Olympic British athlete Rebecca Adlington stars in Cadbury Dairy Milk's Keep Singing Keep Team GB Pumped campaign to garner the nation’s support for Team GB during the London 2012 Olympic Games. For more information, visit http://keepourteampumped.com

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