A FORMER Olympic swimmer and business coach has been selected as one of three youth ambassadors to nurture potential medallists during the Olympic games time.

Chris Cook, of Yarm, has been chosen by the British Olympic Association to inspire the next generation of athletes by helping them to understand what it’s like to perform at an Olympic Games as part of one of its flagship Ambition Programmes, which will be delivered in London next week.

The Team GB Ambition Programme was first delivered at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games to help young athletes prepare and experience their first Games to be in with a chance of maximising success in the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Mr Cook is an Olympic finalist and double Commonwealth champion. Since his retirement from the sport ten years ago, he now runs a successful swimming academy, Swim Buddies, in Darlington with wife Erica which has 900 children on its books. He’s also a sought-after business coach.

Mr Cook said the sheer scale and size of an Olympic Games had the potential to prove a major psychological challenge and compromise the performance of first-time competitors.

He said: “It’s like trying to compete when there’s a massive festival like Mardi Gras going on around you. You go from your World Championships in an individual sport like swimming or athletics, to the Olympics where there are 10,500 athletes – all from different sports. It can be really overwhelming.

“The Team GB Ambition Programme is one of familiarity. The athletes don’t compete, but we have created a learning programme as we dive into what it’s like to be part of a multi-sports competition and thriving in the athletes’ village etc alongside a wider understanding of what it’s like to reach the next level. It really helps them prepare for their Olympic debut when it comes.”

The 42-year-old will be helping to design and deliver the Team GB Ambition Programme for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics with Jenny Cripps, BOA Athlete Services Manager and two other former athletes, Lizzie Simmonds, former Olympic swimmer and Hannah England, former Olympic middle-distance runner.

Mr Cook added: “Since I retired, I’ve spent a lot of time going around the country and working abroad with different teams and understanding what makes people successful. Success does leave clues.

“When I work with people it’s about gaining a good solid connection with them and understanding what makes them tick. Then it’s my job to guide them and help them see their blind spots.

“When we all come together in London for the Ambition Programme we’ll be able to get to know who’s there and how serious they are to take the next step. I’m a great believer that failure is not the end of success but is part of it. The four of us have brought a programme of learning together that will allow these young people to see what lays in store for them at the Olympic level.”