Making an Olympic splash at Whinfell Forest
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Earlier this month we welcomed some very special guests to Center Parcs Whinfell Forest. Team GB swimmer and two-time Olympic medallist Luke Greenbank - along with a group of excited children from his home club, Cockermouth Swimming Club - unveiled our brand-new water ride: the Tropical Cyclone in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise.
The youngsters posed for some photos with Luke (along with his Olympic and World Championship medals!) before taking to the rafts and speeding down the ride. The Tropical Cyclone is an adrenaline-fuelled 4-person family raft ride, with 129 metres of twists and turns, as well as an exhilarating drop into the gravity-defying cone.
The children had an amazing time, feeling very lucky to have had the opportunity to try the ride with Luke before it officially opened to guests later that morning. In between (a lot of) screams, we caught up with some of them moments after they came splashing down the ride to get their first reactions before going back up the stairs to try it again and again! (7 times to be exact!)
Connor described it as the “one of the best slides I have ever been on” and told us he “loved every minute of it.”
Lily also agreed it was the best slide she’d ever experienced and couldn’t get over the size. She said, “I didn’t expect it to be so big at first but when we dropped down into the cone, I couldn’t believe how massive it was!”
Ellie said, “It was so much fun, and the drop was really scary.”
Luke Greenbank was a big fan too. After trying the ride, he said, "It was incredible, a huge adrenaline rush when you go down the drop. It was amazing to be here with the kids and my old club, I'm glad they really enjoyed it as well!"
The morning ended with a Q&A session with Luke, where the children were able to ask their role model all about his road to success. Luke took the opportunity to give the budding Olympians his advice for a successful swimming career.
When did you decide you wanted to do this as a career?
The turning point for me was when I won the European Juniors (aged 16). I’m so lucky I get to do what I love for a job.
What was your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge for me was transitioning from junior to senior. For a few years I wasn’t improving times, so I sat down with my coach and decided to mix it up. We changed my training and introduced some different stimulus which massively helped to overcome that hurdle.
When did you win your first medal at nationals?
My first time competing at nationals was 2010 and I won my first medal in 2011, aged 13. My first win came a few years later in 2014.
When did you specialise in backstroke?
I was around 18 when I decided to specialise in backstroke. I originally started out swimming fly and also freestyle and medley. It’s good to practice all strokes even if there is one you’re a lot stronger at.
Did you do any other sports besides swimming?
Yeah, I did a few different sports growing up. I’d definitely recommend trying a range of different sports to find what works for you.
Did you have any career plans outside of swimming?
It’s good to have plans as you never quite know how things are going to pan out. I always knew I wanted to be involved in sport in some way so if I wasn’t competing, I’d like to think I would still be involved in the industry. I’m not sure what I will do when I retire, but I think it will be something in sport.
How often do you train?
I do 10 two-hour sessions per week (swimming around 6km over those sessions), three weight sessions in the gym, a Pilates reformer session and four pre-pool sessions.
What do you do if you feel a bit unmotivated at a session?
You can’t give 100% at every single session, it’s just not realistic. My advice would be to try and see what you can get out of the session rather than aiming for perfection every time.
How important is it to have natural talent?
I genuinely don’t think I’m anything special, but I worked hard and really enjoy what I do. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard! There’s no limit to how much work you can put in and you can always work on skills. So, my advice would be to always work hard if you want success!
What’s been your proudest moment?
My proudest moment was the World Championships in 2019 – being part of the relay team that won was so special, as the men’s relay team had never won before. I remember standing at the end of the pool watching my teammate coming down - it was a very special buzz and something I will remember for a very long time.
What are your plans for this year?
I have trials in a few weeks, then a training camp in America, followed by European and World Championships at the end of June. Then looking forward to the Olympics in Paris next year!
What makes Cockermouth Swimming Club special?
It’s the perfect environment to develop young swimmers. It might not have the glitz and glamour of bigger pools but it’s character building, has a good culture and great coaches. Great coaches are better than a great pool!
Whinfell Forest was the last of our Center Parcs villages to unveil the iconic Tropical Cyclone. Why not book a short break so the whole family can experience this thrilling ride? Entry to the Subtropical Swimming Paradise is included in the cost of your break - so you can take on the Tropical Cyclone as many times as you like!
Book your Center Parcs break here.