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Olympians join forces with Coventry schools to launch World Fit 2016 in the UK with ‘Walk to Rio’

Four Olympians and a Paralympic hopeful have joined more than 500 Coventry schoolchildren to kick off World Fit 2016 in the UK by participating in a ‘Walk to Rio’ as part of a campaign to get young people active.

As part of Coventry’s 10 year strategy for sport, Coventry Sports Network is working in partnership with World Fit and the World Olympians Association to deliver the pilot programme in the city, aiming to encourage pupils to cover the distance to Rio – 5,777 miles – by walking or running, ahead of the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer.

Launching World Fit 2016 at The Westwood Academy, in Mitchell Avenue, were local British Olympians Dave Moorcroft, former 5,000m record holder, double Olympian Dave Long, former long-distance runner, and current Rio 2016 hopeful and teen Paralympian Kare Adenegan – who was the youngest member of the GB team to compete at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Qatar last year.

Also supporting the pilot were Bill Adcocks, former long-distance runner who competed in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, and Jo Deakins, former swimmer who represented Great Britain at the 1992 & 1996 Olympic Games and England in the Commonwealth Games.

Each Olympian spoke to pupils about their experiences representing Team GB and encouraged them to maintain an active lifestyle at the event - which was organised by educational sports programme, Engage! Coventry, which will deliver the pilot.

World Fit is a charity founded by the US Olympians Association in 2009 with the aim of reducing obesity through active lifestyles by using walking as a catalyst for cultural change. The primary target of the campaign is young people but families, teachers and community leaders are also encouraged to participate.

World Fit’s ‘Walk to Rio’ will take place over a six week period with a further 3,000 children from 35 schools in Coventry and Manchester – the only cities in the UK to deliver the project – joining their American counterparts in a series of themed walks encouraging healthy lifestyles and active living. If the UK trial proves successful the WOA hopes to roll out the programme worldwide.

Olympians play a crucial role by supporting the launch of the walks, motivating participants through school visits and joining in celebration events at the end of the six weeks. As part of the programme the children log their daily activity online which converts into points. The online system then generates individual and group league tables to encourage healthy competition.

As part of the recently launched City of Rugby initiative, every school that participates will also be invited to a first ever city wide rugby 7’s festival on 23 June, celebrating International Olympic Day and the inclusion of Rugby 7’s at the Olympics for the first time this summer.

Speaking about the launch of the initiative in the UK, World Olympians Association President, Joël Bouzou, said:

World Fit is a fantastic initiative based on promoting active and healthy lifestyles among young people and I’m delighted that Olympians are playing an important role by motivating the school communities to be active.

Olympians are the embodiment of the Olympic values and the WOA will always work tirelessly to channel the unique status that being an Olympian brings into communities around the world.

Since the first World Fit Walk in 2009, 108,813 students from 103 different schools across America have logged in a total of 9,184,210 miles.

Jane Benton, head teacher at The Westwood Academy, said:

We have a community that needs to be educated on healthy living - which forms an important part of a PSHE programme.

Integrating PE and exercise into our children’s daily lives is not just setting them up for academic success in school, it also enables them to maintain healthy and fit lifestyles into the future as well.

Gary Hall Snr, three-time Olympic Medallist in Swimming and World Fit founder, said:

The World Fit mission is to eradicate childhood obesity and improve children’s health and attitude towards fitness and we’re delighted to launch our new programme in the UK.

We’re also very thankful to our Olympian and Paralympian mentors who act as fantastic role models and assist in instilling Olympic values such as perseverance, respect and fair play into the lives of the students. I’d like to congratulate and thanks everybody who took part in today’s launch.

Former World Record holder Dave Moorcroft, who attended the event said:

It is great that Coventry has been selected for the World Fit pilot, and demonstrates the impact that sport is having in the city and the reputation it is building nationally and internationally, We hope that schools and community groups really embrace the challenge and get as many people involved as possible.

Primary schools participating in the initiative are; Whoberley Hall, in Overdale Road; St Osburgs, in Upper Hill Street; Longford Park, in Windmill Road; Howes, in Palermo Avenue; Spon Gate, in Upper Spon Street; St Bartholomew’s, in Andover Road; Broad Heath, in Hanford Close; Henley Green, in Wyken Croft; Holy Family, in Penny Park Lane; John Shelton, in Briscoe Road; Clifford Bridge, in Coombe Park Road, and Whittle Academy in Narbeth Way.

Secondary Schools taking part in the initiative are; Westwood Academy, in Mitchell Avenue, and Lyng Hall School, in Blackberry Lane.

The World Fit programme links to the fundraising as part of the Route to Rio, and some of the schools will also use this to help raise funds as part of the Plas dol y moc fundraising activity

For more information visit: World Fit.