Belfast Telegraph

Rebecca Adlington: 'I'm a home cook and pub sort of girl, rather than Michelin-star restaurant'

After resuming her position on the BBC commentators' couch for the Swimming World Championships, Rebecca Adlington will be braving the heat of the Celebrity MasterChef kitchen. She tells Abi Jackson how becoming a mum has stirred up her approach to food

Being immensely good at something doesn't automatically mean you'll be any good at talking about it on TV. Champion swimmer Rebecca Adlington (28) made quite the splash as part of the BBC's commentary team in Rio last summer, however, with her winning girl-next-door persona and, let's face it, that 'flirty' banter with co-commentator Mark Foster.

Soon, she'll be back on the box discussing her beloved sport once again, alongside Rio comrades Foster and Helen Skelton, covering the FINA World Championships.

But that's not all Adlington is set to be doing on TV screens across the country this summer. She's also been confirmed as one of the 20 famous faces who'll be battling it out to impress John Torode and Gregg Wallace in the new series of Celebrity MasterChef, due to start next month.

Filming's all done and dusted, of course, and while Adlington and the other hopefuls (Rachel Stevens, Vic Reeves and Tyger Drew-Honey are also on the line-up) are all sworn to secrecy about which celebs manage to chop, shallow-fry and flambe their way to the final stages, she will reveal that taking part was "so exciting".

"It's such a great show - it was an honour to be part of it," says Adlington, who won two gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

So, is she a good cook?

"I'm a home cook. I'm a pub sort of girl, rather than Michelin-star restaurant," says the former swimmer, who's also keeping busy with ambassador duties for pelvic floor health experts Innovo.

"As an athlete, you cook quick, healthy meals. Now I cook meals that me and Summer can both eat, normal everyday food. I try to have a balanced diet, but I often go for quicker meals just for convenience and ease.

"I learnt so much filming MasterChef, though, and had an amazing experience."

Becoming a mum to Summer, who turned two in June, has affected her approach to eating, she acknowledges.

"Summer is quite fussy with her food, so it's been a challenge," Adlington admits. "She's just not into food like I am, or other kids. I have started cooking a bit more with her now she's two, so I'm hoping that will help and get her to experience other foods.

"It's mainly meat and vegetables she won't eat. Certain textures she refuses to even try. She's started liking eggs lately, which I was glad about. She does like fruit, yoghurts and she loves pesto pasta."

Having been open about her own body-image struggles in the past, and experienced the devastating impact of being trolled on social media over her appearance, encouraging healthy habits and a strong sense of self-confidence in her daughter is really important to Adlington - and she knows this starts with her own attitude and behaviours.

"I definitely want to be a good role model to Summer,"explains the former athlete, who split from husband Harry Needs last year, though they remain on good terms. "Everything that I do, I think of how it affects her.

"That's why I want to lead a healthy lifestyle with food and exercise. I often work out with her, which is fun."

Being a working mum also fits her vision of being a good role model.

While filming at last year's Olympics, Adlington was honest about how hard it was being away from her baby. A few days before she was due to fly home, she posted a video on Instagram showing Summer watching her mum on TV, which Adlington captioned with #missyou and #crying.

While the separation is a struggle, her career is important, and she hopes she's setting a good example for her girl: "I want her to see me going to work and understanding about working hard too."

That said, there is no grand plan.

"I used to have a plan, but not so much now I have Summer," Adlington says. "I want as much time with her as possible, and I've definitely learnt that whatever I do plan, it never ends up like you expected.

"I'm definitely in the middle of finding my feet again. I love being able to do different things, it makes it so interesting and fun.

"I would love to get into more sports presenting, but it takes time, patience and hard work, so I'm going to continue what I'm doing and hopefully it will pay off."

And whatever happens, she'll be setting aside time for having fun with her daughter.

"Me and Summer went to Spain in May, which was lovely. She loves the beach and playing in the sand. I'm hoping to go away with her for a few days in August too, once I'm back from Budapest covering the World Swimming Championships."

Rebecca Adlington will be covering the Swimming World Championships, which begin on BBC Two today at 4.30pm. Celebrity MasterChef is due to return to BBC One next month

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