New centre boosts British swimming medal prospects

British Swimming hopes its new National Performance Centre [NPC] in Manchester will help unearth the next generation of Paralympic stars.

The Manchester Aquatics Centre is the third NPC, with bases in Loughborough and Bath hosting able-bodied swimmers.

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The Olympics and Paralympics are basically equal now

Amy Marren World champion

The move aims to channel all disability swimming resources into one facility.

"The world is moving on and we need to move with it and try to be one step ahead which I think these facilities will help with," said Ellie Simmonds.

The four-time Paralympic champion rose to the top of her sport training in a disability swimming programme in Swansea, which was closed at the end of 2013.

Simmonds, 19, had already announced her decision to relocate to Loughborough earlier in the year, but she will now join her elite team-mates for regular training camps in Manchester.

"It's really good that we can now come together as a team to train in these amazing facilities. To be the best athletes we can be, we need great support and that's what we have here," she told BBC Sport.

"It will definitely help our chances of winning those medals come the Rio Paralympics."

Underwater heart rate monitors are one of several new technologies GB swimmers are utilising

Amy Marren, 15, who dazzled at last year's World Championships - winning four gold medals - is equally impressed with the revamped Manchester Aquatics Centre and how the disability programme now matches the setup for able-bodied swimmers.

"The Olympics and Paralympics are basically equal now," she told BBC Sport.

"It's improved 100% and this new centralised system with all of the medical support, training and sports science in one place gives us everything we need."

London 2012 silver medallist Claire Cashmore and two-time world champion Dan Pepper , who are already based in Manchester, are the most high-profile swimmers to form part of the programme.

The sport will launch a recruitment drive for other athletes - including established internationals - over the coming months.

"The city is also home to a number of elite sports including taekwondo and cycling as well as the British women's water polo national centre, and provides an excellent support network which we can utilise," said British Swimming performance director Chris Furber.

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ParalympicsGB swimmers won 39 medals at the London Games - seven of them gold - and aim to better that come the Rio Paralympics in 2016.

"GB swimmers have traditionally worked on their own programmes rather than centrally and whilst no-one will be forced to move here I want to see athletes having that opportunity to train together and challenge one another and bring the best out of themselves."

British disability swimming head coach Rob Greenwood and national coach Graeme Smith , who were both appointed last year, will be based in Manchester full-time.

The first major event of 2014 for many disabled swimmers will be the British International Disability Championships  in Glasgow on 18-21 April, whilst athletes in certain disability categories will contest for places at this summer's Commonwealth Games.