A FORMER swimming world record holder said she felt like a fish out of water when she set off for a 280-mile charity cycle ride across Africa with three fellow Olympians.
Jo Jackson, of Richmond, North Yorkshire, said while she was looking forward to a post-Olympic adventure with swimmers Rebecca Adlington, Melanie Marshall and Ross Davenport, she was worried about the physical stresses of riding from Livingstone to Lusaka, in Zambia.
The 26-year-old former Richmond School pupil said her preparations for the Bike for Africa ride had been a world away from her usual training routine of “swimming up and down”.
Jackson said: “I am a bit nervous, but excited at the same time. It is going to be a tough challenge. I have never been to Africa before, and I couldn’t have a better group to do this with.
“Everyone has been saying with the swimming I will be fine, but I have been surprised about how different cycling is.
“Getting on and off the bike every day will be one of the biggest challenges, even with padded shorts.”
Sir Chris Hoy has offered the group advice on avoiding saddle sores, and the Beijing Olympics 400m freestyle bronze medallist said she had prepared herself mentally to ride in temperatures of up to 40 degrees.
She said: “I have been training on an exercise bike and riding around Richmond. I’ve found riding in Richmond really hard because of all the hills – and the heat in Africa is going to be tough.”
Jackson said the group would stay with families in villages during the four-day ride, which could see them encounter snakes and scorpions.
She said: “I am sure the people we are staying with will be keeping an eye out for us.”
Once the team has reached Lusaka, the swimmers will give lessons to street children and youngsters who have lost parents to Aids, at a renovated open-air pool.
The group is aiming to raise £50,000 for Sport in Action, an organisation that inspires change within impoverished communities, as well as Aids hospice care.
To donate, visit justgiv ing.com/ZambiaCycle