Birmingham gold medalist Adam Peaty has called for better investment in sport as he urged the Government to capitalize on the success of the Commonwealth Games and England’s Euro 2022 triumph.
The England swimmer, who won the Commonwealth Games 50m breaststroke on Wednesday to add to his collection the only major title he was missing, said the powers that be must stop closing pools and facilities.
“This has to be a platform,” the 27-year-old told the Daily Mirror.
“We really need those in power to stop closing pools and facilities. We should hold the Government and councils to account to ensure we invest in facilities across the country.”
Research by UK Active published in June said up to 79% of public leisure facilities could be forced to close their doors in the next six months due to rising energy costs.
“We have to think about people’s mental health and well-being,” the eight-time world champion added.
“People struggle to deal with life and their emotions.
“You need access to sports and facilities. I know that if I wake up in the morning and feel angry, I go to exercise.
“We need it to create a happier and healthier nation.
What’s the point of investing £24 million every four years in British Swimming if we can’t invest in the next generation who need the pools to be open?
“So many people from all walks of life use pools, not just those in elite sports. Learning to swim is important.”
It came as the national celebration of the Lionesses’ 2-1 win over Germany in the European Championship final led to calls for an overhaul of physical education (PE) classes.
The Lionesses wrote an open letter to Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss demanding that all schoolgirls should have access to a minimum of two hours a week of PE lessons.
All 23 members of the England Women’s team called on the Tory leadership candidates to prioritize women’s football because “this generation of schoolgirls deserves more”.
The Euro 2022 winners warned that “women’s football has come a long way, but it still has a long way to go”.
Peaty, meanwhile, warned that the government risked “shooting itself in the foot” if it failed to seize the moment.
“What’s the point of investing £24m every four years in British Swimming if we can’t invest in the next generation who need the pools to be open?
“You’re shooting yourself in the foot. In recent years, the government has taken away a lot of pools and investments.”
Peaty appeared before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee in November to call for greater stability of funding for athletes, saying it is up to the Government to step up and offer this support.
He added at the time that greater funding was also needed at the grassroots level to avoid losing future Olympic and Paralympic champions.
“(The government) needs to fund the grassroots, it needs to invest in leisure centres, it needs to invest in coaches and everything in between. The lottery can only do so much, he said.
“I think the government can do more to support the elite and definitely the grassroots. Stop closing leisure centers because it will bite you.”
Peaty, who works with the Swim United program to encourage children into pools, told the Mirror on Thursday that swimming “must be accessible to everyone”.
He said: “When I was younger you could swim for £1 and in the summer for free. It must be available to everyone. We are facing a cost of living crisis where people have to choose between eating or heating their homes.”