A Kingston swimming teacher wrote her name into the history books as she clinched victory in the first-ever Swim Serpentine mass open water event over the weekend.
Rebecca Gravell joined thousands of eager swimmers who headed to the two-day open water festival in Hyde Park, London.
The 22-year-old’s moment in the spotlight came on Sunday in the 19-24 Youth Women Age Group race of the British Open Water Swimming Championships, which saw competitors complete a 3.3km course around the Serpentine.
And it was Gravell, swimming on behalf of Kingston Royals SC, who came home first in the category as she clocked a winning time of 46.09 minutes in her category.
Originally from Dartford in Kent – and having learned to swim at Erith & District Swimming Club – the new British champion admitted her exploits on Sunday would live long in the memory.
“It was a beautiful location to swim in,” said Gravell.
“We’ve got the London 2012 buoys, so it kind of puts in your head the scenario that ‘this could have been me in 2012’.
“It’s the exact location and it’s nice for amateurs to have a go at that.
“I won the 19-24 category and that’s really cool. Normally there isn’t too much open for that age group and people filter off swimming, so it’s nice to be recognised for that.
“It feels a bit strange being British champion for that age group – I certainly didn’t think that was going to happen this morning when I rolled up.
“I started swimming when I was about ten years old at Erith & District Swimming Club and absolutely loved it, so just wanted to carry on.
“I think it’s a good way to keep fit and if I didn’t swim, I would probably be quite unfit because I’m not very good at any land sports. My hobby has become my job. I love it.”
As a full-time swimming teacher, Gravell is around the sport every day but claims there is something particularly special about open water swimming and would encourage everyone to give it a go.
“With open water swimming there are less people competing so you get to know everyone – it’s more of a community feel,” she added.
“Each event you go to, you know a lot of people – it’s quite well-organised and there’s a lot of safety involved. It’s a really nice day out.
“A lot of open water swimming happens outside of London, so having an event at the Serpentine is quite nice for Londoners not to have to commute and it’s such a beautiful setting – I think it’s great.
“To anyone thinking about getting involved next year I would say ‘do it’! Don’t even hesitate – if you think you might not be able to manage it, do some training and book yourself in, what’s the worse that can happen.”
Swim Serpentine is a new two-day open water swimming festival in the Serpentine, Hyde Park, which took place over the weekend of 24-25 September. For more information, please visit www.swimserpentine.co.uk