Olympic Silver medallist and two-time, world open water swimming champion Keri-anne Payne, was at Wattisham Airfield in Suffolk to launch the 2017 Great East Swim.

The open water-swimming event will return to Alton Water Reservoir on Saturday 17 June for the ninth year.

Over two thousand people of all ages and abilities regularly take the plunge at the Great East Swim, which offers the opportunity for everyone to take part – from first timers to experienced open water swimmers.

Distances range from a 1/2 mile up to the challenging marathon 10k swim, which is back by popular demand.

Keri-anne Payne, who finished 8th in the marathon swim at the 2016 Rio Olympics, said: “I've been involved in a lot of Great Swim events over the years and they're always such a fun and rewarding experience to be a part of.

“I hope more people across Suffolk will be inspired to get involved in open water swimming this year.

“The idea of swimming in open water can seem daunting for some people but it's an amazing feeling to take part with thousands of others in a picturesque location.

"Whether you're looking to try an open water swim for the first time, complete a personal challenge or to swim for a worthy cause, the Great East Swim the perfect event to sign up to.”

Keri-anne met personnel from Wattisham Flying Station who will be taking on the Great East Swim as part of their community engagement programme.

The group aims encourage more of the airfield's armed forces, many of who are triathletes, to take on the challenge of an open water swim in Suffolk.

Some of Wattisham Flying Station's triathletes later received a master class from the elite swimmer at the airfield's indoor swimming pool.

Lt Col Robbie Silk, the Station Staff Officer, said: “It is a pleasure for Wattisham to host the launch of the Great East Swim 2017, which will reinforce our commitment to Suffolk's Armed Forces Community Covenant, Suffolk County Council and Charities.

“It will also provide our soldiers with the chance to participate in the Great East Swim 2017 and a unique opportunity for our triathletes to learn from Keri-anne Payne, an Olympic swimmer.”

The group were also joined by representatives from Macmillan Cancer Support, the official charity of the Great Swim Series, and two local charities who are all encouraging people to take on the Great East Swim to consider fundraising for their worthy causes.

The Blossom Charity exists to enable women make positive changes in their lives and to provide a support network for anyone wanting to swim for the charity including social gatherings, group swimming sessions in open water and support through social media.

Inspire Suffolk uses sport as a way to enhance education and to bring people together and encourage better health, making a difference to the lives of people living in the county.

The Great East Swim also includes an outreach programme, organised by Suffolk County Council, where people who are not confidently engaged in a sport are provided with an opportunity to push themselves in a challenging environment.

Valerie Brundish and John Chilvers are among those who have signed up to the programme and were also in attendance.

Councillor Tony Goldson, Cabinet Member for Health at Suffolk County Council, said: “The Great East Swim provides a fantastic opportunity for anyone looking to challenge themselves and we are delighted to be working in partnership with the Great Swim team to host the event in the county again in 2017.

“Suffolk County Council makes very clear its commitment to supporting residents to lead healthy lifestyles and becoming the most active county in England and the Great East Swim has become an important sporting and community event underlining that firm ambition.”

For more information about applying for the Great East Swim Outreach Programme visit: suffolksport.com/greateastswim

Entries for the Great East Swim are now open. For more information and to enter, visit: Greatswim.org