GAIL Porter, TV presenter, and Duncan Goodhew MBE, Olympic gold medallist held their breath in an underwater photo shoot to launch Swimathon 2011.
The pair encouraged people to sign up for the challenge which will raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care and The Swimathon Foundation.
Swimathon is set to hit a record 580 pools across the UK between April 8-10, when 22,000 swimmers of all ages and abilities will come together to raise more than £2million for charity.
Gail Porter, who is a keen swimmer, said: “Launching Swimathon this year gives me huge pleasure. The challenge is ideal motivation for everyone to pull on their swimsuits, get in the pool and enjoy a much-needed New Year health boost.
“I find swimming a great way to keep fit, especially as it’s an activity I enjoy with my child. Going down to your local pool and getting them used to being is the water is just the start of the fun. Once my daughter was up and paddling, there was no stopping us!”
She continued: “What’s more – the money raised will help Marie Curie Cancer Care to provide free nursing care to terminally ill people in the Highlands and Islands.
“I know what a difference this care can make as both my mum and my grandmother died from cancer and received care at home from a Marie Curie Nurse.
“Caring for a loved one at the end of their life is never going to be an easy time for families, but it was made much more bearable for us by the skill and care of these amazing nurses.”
Marie Curie’s Vonnie Carson commented: “Every year people across the Highlands and Islands take on the Swimathon challenge and have a great time raising funds and getting fit along the way. You can even choose to take part individually or as part of a team.
“This year we hope even more people will take the plunge and raise funds to help our local Marie Curie Nurses provide more free nursing care to people with terminal cancer and other illnesses in their own homes.”
And Swimathon President Duncan Goodhew added: “We are approaching a quarter of a century of Swimathons and I’m delighted to report that last year’s event enjoyed an astonishing 38 per cent rise in swimmers.
“And what’s really exciting is that around 2,500 of those who dived in told us that they only started swimming again because they entered the event.
“From these grass roots right up to our overflowing international trophy cabinet, it seems that Britain’s love affair with swimming really is back to stay.”
The majority of funds raised by Swimathon 2011 will help support Marie Curie Nurses who provide free nursing care to people with terminal cancer and other illnesses, in the place of their choice.
The charity expects to care for over 29,000 terminally ill patients in the community and in its hospices this year.
Early birds to Swimathon 2011 will enjoy half price registration fees before January 31, 2011.
People can choose from 1.5k, 2.5k or 5k challenges and entries to Swimathon 2011 are open until April 7. Either go online to www.swimathon.org or call 0845 36 700 36 for details.