Quotes from James ‘Arg’ Argent, Wes Nelson, Georgia Kousoulou, Greg Rutherford & Rachel Adedeji
Sink or Swim for Stand Up To Cancer starts on Tuesday 27th August at 9.30pm on Channel 4. To donate, for more information or to take on your own Channel Challenge for SU2C, please visit channel4.com/su2c
JAMES ‘ARG’ ARGENT
How has your starting on this new journey impacted your mental health?
It's been fantastic for me. It's been really good to get myself into a good routine and structure and to exercise every day. I feel so happy at the moment. I feel good. I'm starting to lose weight, and the distance that I’m swimming is getting longer and longer. It's really been fantastic for me. It's just come at the right time.
What impact has your weight had on your life?
It's been tough. Even though I've had medical checkups recently, my heart’s okay, I haven't got early signs of diabetes and my cholesterol is not too high, but I'm fully aware that if I carry on the way I was going then I could get heart problems and I could become ill or even die. So, I think our swim is not only just an opportunity for me to achieve something and swim the channel, it's also an opportunity to really sort my life out as well because I don't want to get ill.
How have you found the training?
It's been extremely tough, but every single week I’m improving, we all are, and we're swimming further and further. I'm quite lucky because while I'm a big guy, I've got really good buoyancy levels, I float really easy in the water, so I don't really have to worry about drowning. It's easy to float! But listen, it is really tough, but it's just we're motivated every week because of why we're doing this.
Are you doing anything to motivate yourself?
So, one of my favourite films is Sexy Beast with Ray Winstone, he’s incredible in that so my dream is to swim the Channel in my own pair of Sexy Beast Speedos. I want to get some specially made, an exact replica of the Speedos that Ray Winstone wore in that film, that's what I want to swim the channel in. I think it would give me a real boost mentally.
What stopped you learning to swim properly growing up?
I’ve never liked being in water especially open water when you don’t know what’s underneath you and it just feels so big. I tend to panic, and that panic is something that is only just starting to go now even after four weeks of training. It’s that fear of not being able to breathe properly when you really want to breathe, you just start panicking.
Do your family swim?
Oh yeah, they’ll swim it’s just me! It was just that incident as a kid that just put me off forever. The sea is just not something for me, I’ll go in the pool to cool off on holiday but that’s it and I won’t go out of my depth.
What was it like moving from the pool to start training in Lake Windermere?
Oh wow, Lake Windermere was a massive eye-opener for me, not just for me but for everyone. It really opened our eyes to the challenge that we’ve taken on because at the end of this we’re all supposed to be swimming the Channel. The fact that we were struggling in a lake which didn’t have the current or the cold of the sea was a real shock to the system and made us realise the magnitude of what we had taken on. We realised just how exposed we were going to be when we were out there open to the elements, was terrifying.
How are you feeling about the actual challenge at the end of all this?
It’s one of those things that feels so overwhelming you have to kind of not think about it. All I can do is put the work in now, work hard and hope that everything will be alright on the day. It’s not the distance I’m worried about, being out in the open sea, fingers crossed it will all be okay.
What was your swimming ability before the show?
I basically could do doggy-paddle and breast stroke. I literally never learnt to do a front crawl, I didn’t have a clue. I’ve never had lessons, one of the first things I remember as a child is we used to go to Cyprus every year and my dad basically threw my goggles in the pool and was like, "Go get them” and I’d jump in, that’s how I learnt to swim. I just did it back then, he literally threw me in the deep end. The thing is, I had no fear back then. I used to always like doing mad stuff, and I used to swim underwater.
Has not being able to swim held you back in your adult life?
We obviously don't live in a hot country, so it's never been that much of an issue. I've just always avoided it, like if there's water sports going on, filming and stuff for TOWIE, I'll just be like, "No, I'm not doing it. Nope." Obviously, I'll go on a big boat, but I'm not jumping in. I've got my no intentions of doing it. If I'm going to get in it, I want a life jacket, you know what I mean?
How has your swimming improved?
Oh my God, massively. I can do front crawl now! The main problem for me is my breathing, it’s always been my fear of putting my head under water. It’s one thing swimming in a pool where you know that if you need a breather you can hold onto the side, but there’s no side in the Channel! One of the instructors told me I could turn out to be the best swimmer on the show because my technique is good, physically I’m good, but I just need to get my breathing under control. That’s my big problem.
This series is for Stand Up To Cancer, is it a charity close to your heart?
I'm so lucky that none of my immediate family have ever been affected. But some people around me have, friends’ mums, friends' family, cousins, you know? There's so many people. It's getting closer and closer, and that scares the life out of me. Anything I can do to raise money and raise awareness, I'm going to do it. I'm going to carry on, that is the best thing about my job, it I can use it to help raise awareness then I will.
How come you’ve got to adulthood and can’t swim?
People assume because I’m an athlete that I can swim, but I can’t. Funnily enough there are three athletes doing the show – me, Tessa Sanderson and Linford Christie and none of us can swim! I think when you’re really into sport you end up focussing on one thing and everything else falls away.
Do you think you've missed out on anything through your life because you can’t swim?
Very possibly. I mean the one thing I did, which I think I was fortunate, I've never been afraid of water. I would happily jump into water, so long as I was right next to say a boat, or the side of a lake or whatever else. So, from that point of view I don’t think I have missed out. But now I can have an opportunity to go and experience what others have been doing all their lives.
Have you ever doubted whether you could actually do it?
At one point, I genuinely thought, "I think this is impossible. I don't think I'm going to be able to do this." And then it just clicks. It's a weird thing with swimming, you get into a rhythm, you're comfortable doing it, and you just swim. It's amazing, it's a lovely sensation!
How are you feeling about swimming across the Channel?
I feel pretty relaxed at the moment. I can't speak for the others, but me personally, because I know I'm putting in quite a lot of work and really trying, I'm sort of getting my head around all of the different fears etc. that a lot of people probably would have, I feel quite confident with it. I mean, it's not going to be easy, it's going to be probably quite horrible at times. But equally, I quite enjoy being in those situations.
Do you feel a sense of pride that you can use your platform to raise awareness and help other people from losing their grandad?
Look, I have a relatively small platform compared to most but it’s enough that I can still shout about things and some people may listen. I think it’s really important that if you’re in a situation where you can, then you should. I’m a big believer in that and as I said, having been through what this disease can do, it gives me the desire to do all I can to help.
What was your swimming ability going into this challenge?
If I’m being completely honest it was non-existent! It was never something I was really interested in, I was always a bit fearful of it. The first thing I always do when I get to a pool is ask how deep it is because I can only walk across it.
How has that impacted your life as an adult?
I’ve been in a pool about four times in my life but not to swim I just paddle and hold onto the side for dear life. I had a friend who wanted to teach me how to swim, he made it look so easy, but I was always terrified. I could just never get over that fear I felt as a child and that’s what has discouraged me from ever trying to learn as an adult.
Do any of your family have the same worries about swimming?
Yeah, neither my mum or my dad can swim, they are both more into the fitness in the gym then they are in the pool. My mum had an awful experience as a kid which stopped her from ever enjoying swimming. I think that it’s thanks to this bad experience that she never wanted to encourage me to swim.
How has not being able to swim impacted your life as an adult?
It didn’t really bother me as a kid, but I really noticed it once I got into my adult years, especially when it came to holidays. I remember not going on a girl’s holiday because I knew they were going to want to be by the pool and I didn’t want to have to explain that I couldn’t swim. So, when my friends started going to boat parties I was just thinking, “There is no way I can go, they are all going to be in their bikinis and jumping off the side. If I do that I will die”. That’s why I always thought that I should learn how to swim at some point, but I’ve just never got around to it until now.
How have you found the training for this challenge?
It’s been so overwhelming, it’s been so crazy because it’s like I have literally chucked myself in the deep end. I’ve gone from not being able to swim properly more than a meter or so to then, in such a short space of time, having to prepare to swim across the English Channel. It’s insane when you think about it. My coach has been amazing, Harry is so strict but at the same time he is the nicest person. He is so specific in terms of technique, breathing and stamina, he’s always said we haven’t got enough time to mess around, so we must knuckle down from the beginning. It’s like a crash course!
This challenge is part of Stand Up To Cancer, is it a disease that has impacted your family?
The fact that this challenge is part of this charity is one of the main reasons I wanted to be a part of it. I just thought that while swimming it’s not something I am good at there are so many people around the country who are really suffering because of this horrific disease and if there is anything that I can do, even in a small way, to help, then I need to do it. You often hear or see in the news that when people become sick they want to tick things off their bucket list, and they get it done despite the fact they are so ill. So, if they can do things like learn to swim while also battling a horrific disease, then I can do this, I must do this.