FORMER Olympic swimmer Karen Pickering put the stars of the future through their paces at a free swim clinic in Winchester.

The session, organised by Southern Water at River Park Leisure Centre, helped to mark the 20th anniversary of the company’s Learn to Swim scheme.

It has taught more than 600,000 youngsters to swim in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Kent, and Sussex since 1992.

Karen represented Britain for 20 years and won more major championship medals than any other female British swimmer competing at four consecutive Olympic Games.

She will be commentating for the BBC at the Olympics and Channel 4 at the Paralympics, and said: “It’s wonderful to be able to take part in these events to celebrate both the 20th year of Learn to Swim and the Olympics being held in London.

“I’ve taken part in previous Learn to Swim events with Southern Water, so I know how successful and popular the scheme is. These clinics were a chance to build on that and give some specialist training to some of the area’s best young swimmers.”

The 20 youngsters who took part in the event were identified by local swimming clubs as potential stars of the future.

Nikki La Niece, sports development co-ordinator at River Park Leisure Centre, said: “We were delighted to be invited to host a swim clinic with Karen Pickering. She is so inspiring to listen to and our young swimmers were able to learn the importance of good technique. They also appreciated the opportunity to ask her questions and hear about her experiences at four Olympic Games.”