Ross sets his sights on helping AIDS victims

SPT_GCK_230512_Olympic feature, Loughborough, Swimming. Picture Graham Chadwick. Rebecca Adlington, Ross Davenport, and Joanne Jackson.
SPT_GCK_230512_Olympic feature, Loughborough, Swimming. Picture Graham Chadwick. Rebecca Adlington, Ross Davenport, and Joanne Jackson.
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Now the 2012 Olympic Games have come to a close Belper
 swimmer Ross Davenport will set his sights on sunnier climes - and a 280-mile bike ride across Zambia.

The 28-year-old will be joined by double Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington, Olympic bronze medallist Jo Jackson and ex-swimmer Mel Marshall as they look to raise £50,000 for Sport in Action, a non-governmental organisation that looks to inspire change in impoverished communities through sport.

Leaving Britain on October 3, the quartet will set out from Livingstone on a four-day Bike for Africa challenge, supported by British Gas and UK Sport, to the capital Lusaka.

En-route they will visit a number of projects, also supported by UK Sport, such as ‘Go Sisters’, which empowers girls and women through sport.

Conditions will be hot and dry but there will be no creature comforts or five-star hotels. Instead, they will stay with local families.

Once in Lusaka they will give swimming lessons at a pool that has been renovated with £13,000 raised at a charity ball by Marshall and where sport sits side by side with AIDS education workshops in a country experiencing a HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The target is to raise at least £50,000 which is earmarked for the construction of a physio wing alongside an already existing AIDS hospital.

The aim would be to offer patients physiotherapy, but also provide sports physio in the same place in a bid to reduce the stigma attached to AIDS.

The challenge is the brainchild of former world, European and Commonwealth medallist Marshall.

Davenport admitted the challenge came at a good time knowing the emptiness that can follow the high of the Olympics.

“You’ve been in a close-knit community with the Olympic team for three weeks and you’ve gone along this journey for eight, 10, 12 years,” he said.

“So as soon as that is finished there is going to be a massive void in our lives.

“It’s nice we can quickly challenge ourselves and mentally prepare for something that is a very worthy cause.”

Already an ambassador for the Encephalitis Society, Adlington, 23, finished London 2012 with two bronze medals, losing her 800m title on Friday to 15-year-old American Katie Ledecky.

The Mansfield-born swimmer joked: “It’s funny because after Olympics I am going into training for the bike ride so I’ll have to get Chris Hoy to give me some tips and help me out. Hopefully I can go up to Manchester and go on a bike ride with him one day.’

“I didn’t even have to think about it; it was such a great idea.

“It is totally out of our comfort zone - well, certainly out of my comfort zone, I’ve not been on a bike for 10 years - so it is very, very new.

“It’s a very different challenge – it’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be extremely tough but we’re perfectly willing to do it for the greater good.”

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