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This month’s Swimming Times

Swimming Times is the official magazine of the ASA and British Swimming. Read about the latest issue below. Click on the buttons to reveal the story.

News Round-up

  • Independent swimming teacher Sarah Bates could have been forgiven for giving in gracefully after a pool operator ended her weekday lesson time because they needed the income themselves. But the owner of the Sarah Bates School of Swimming at Derby is no quitter. Rather than look for another job, she decided to build her own pool – and has already sold her four-bedroom house to finance the project. Her car is about to go as well.

  • Jumping into freezing water may not be everyone’s idea of a good time but hundreds of UK Cold Water competitors are convinced its good for their health – both mentally and physically. South London SC, organisers of the two-yearly Cold Water Championships at Tooting Bec Lido, have released the results of a survey conducted at the previous event in 2013. Most of the 300 cold water swimmers who took part in the survey said they believed a chilly-dip promotes wellbeing with many describing it as addictive.

  • World and Paralympic champion Sascha Kindred is backing a charity’s fundraising campaign to help children with physical disabilities to learn to swim. Level Water, which provides disabled children with one-to-one lessons, is asking 50 people to make a pledge to raise money. The charity will help fundraisers to plan individual challenges, send teams to key events and provide free coaching support where required. Sascha said: “Level Water is building the Paralympic legacy that we so badly need. Support Level Water and you can create our next generation of Paralympians.”  

To get the full story and read more of this month’s news stories, click here to purchase the March 2015 issue of Swimming Times

This Life

Olympic Legacy Lives On

Swimming writer Liz Byrnes describes her love affair with Olympic venues while Coach John Burling tells how First Strokes Godmanchester SC swapped their 16.7m pool for the London Aquatics Centre’s 50m lanes.

Liz Byrnes

When my mother, Pat Byrnes, lowered me into the water at Heeley Swimming Pool in Sheffield as a tiny tot, little did she know she had set in motion a watery journey that continues to this day.

A 25m pool, hundreds of Sheffield children learned to swim at Heeley Baths, their eyes streaming from the chlorine as they huddled around the vending machines post-swim with their eyes on Twists crisps and Texan chocolate bars.

Who knows what I loved about swimming from such a young age? Jumping in was a great favourite. There was an excess of energy to be burned off. Tearing up and down. Wanting to beat the boys. Almost like floating – is this what it feels like to be up in space?

There was an interesting land-based episode as well. Three years old at the most, watching my sister Fran in the water was not compelling. I took off. Down the stairs and out of the doors. Up to the main road and across, I found my way home, but there was no-one in. I sat on the step crying and then off I went again only to be spotted by an alert policeman which resulted in a trip in a police car and an eventual reunion with my mother.

To read more swimming anecdotes from Liz Byrnes as well as an account of First Strokes Godmanchester Swimming Club’s visit to the London Aquatics Centre, you can click here to purchase a copy of the March 2015 issue of Swimming Times. 

Honesty Box

ASA aquatic officer, Mandy Mason, reveals that she used to play classical guitar and once aspired to be a professional musician

Nobody knows this, but… I am frequently mistaken for Kylie Minogue. It’s quite embarrassing to be chased down the road by hoards of young men chanting “Kylie, Kylie”. These days, I just sign the autographs rather than go through the rigmarole of explaining that I am not her.

Seriously, not many people know that I played classical guitar many years ago (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) and I had aspirations of becoming a professional musician. Later, I moved to more mainstream guitar and discovered pop music, which resulted in me desperately wanting to be Suzi Quatro, but I never did look good in black leather – not even back then.

If I could bring about change, I would… make swimming teaching accepted as a profession rather than a part-time casual job that ‘mums do to earn a bit of pin money while the kids are at school’. This is now beginning to happen so I’ll spread my thoughts a bit wider.

 I would remove intolerance – towards race, gender, religious belief, difference of opinion, age, health, size, looks, background – everything. I believe that as a race, if we were to be more accepting of the differences in each other and ‘learn’ rather than ‘judge’ the world would be a much calmer and happier place.

I know I can’t change the world but I try to change my small part of it by treating people with courtesy, respect and, for those who know me, humour.

To read more from Mandy you can click here to buy the March 2015 issue of Swimming Times. 

Swimming Mum

It used to be the preserve of wimps and nerds but these days it’s the coolest kids who hang out at the swimming pool, says our very own Swimming Mum with Attitude.

It’s not often that I receive a query from the Swimming Times editorial office but my last article sent ST HQ into a spin. Message from the editor: “We’re just querying your use of the term ‘gf’.” Apparently they had been bemused by the reference in my e.mum article and required clarification.

Why it stands for ‘girlfriend’, of course!

It appears they had done a poll in the Swimming Times office – the older members were completely in the dark and the younger members thought they knew but were unsure of this application in a swimming context.

Which got me thinking, girlfriend: since when did swimming become sassy? Because it truly is!

Back in the day when I was swimming at school (the Dark Ages), the sport was predominantly the preserve of nerds and wimps – those kids who couldn’t cut it on the rugby or hockey field and had a sick-note from Mum to say they couldn’t do contact sports.

Fortunately all that has changed and right now being on the swim team is the preserve of the ‘cool children’. 

Following on from the Swimming Times head office enquiry, I set out to do some market research of my own to gauge swimming kudos. My self-imposed personal assignment was to take notes during the Arena League final.

To read Swimming Mum’s research results click here to purchase a copy of the March 2015 issue. 


Sharron Davies returned to her native Plymouth to give an inspirational talk to an audience of swimmers, divers and other athletes at the University of St Mark and St John. In the first of a two-part feature, she describes the ups and downs of her early swimming years.

I was five or six when I learnt to swim. I was with Plymouth Devonport in those days. I did ballet and all the other things that little girls do. But gradually all the other sports just fell away. By the time I was eight or nine, I was probably swimming every day. I lived close to the pool, which was handy. I literally lived around the corner and my mum took me there because she thought it was the right thing to do.

Every sports person has to have a team of people behind them. For me it was my parents. My mum was the peacemaker. She was the one that stayed at home and gave up a new washing machine and holidays and all the things she wanted to do. My dad eventually gave up his job to coach me full-time because there was nobody else to do it.

Plymouth wasn’t like it is now. It was out of the way. Everything happened in London and the Midlands and nothing much happened down here. We had to use the pool in the morning, when it wasn’t officially open. My dad had to get the key to Central Park. We didn’t have any lifeguards. And when the public came in, we were trying to swim lengths and having to dodge them while they were swimming widths. It was very different to what it is now.

To read more about Sharron’s bumpy path to success, click here to purchase the March 2015 issue of Swimming Times

Peggy's Law 

Swimming Times meets barrister and water polo player Peggy Etiebet – the ‘accidental international’ with plans for the future of the sport.

Elite sport changes lives. But where it offers opportunity and unequivocal highs, it can dish out disappointment in equal measure.

In a whirlwind 18 months, Peggy Etiebet went from club water polo player in 2012 to being an elite player in the world’s toughest league in Hungary and playing in the FINA World Championships in 2013. A year on again and with funding for elite water polo gone, she’s back at work as a barrister in public and administrative law as well as coaching and playing for Otter.

Peggy didn’t feature in London 2012. In fact, she’d not even thought about being part of TeamGB and bought tickets to go along and watch. It was only after the games that GB head coach, Szilveszter Fekete, suggested she try out for the elite squad. It was that suggestion that changed her life, albeit only for a short time.

She said: “I followed the build-up to London 2012 loosely. I bought tickets and went to a couple of games and went to the warm-up tournament. It wasn’t until March 2013 that Szilveszter spoke to my club coach about going up to Manchester for a trial. Then he left and I had to trial again.”

To read more about Peggy’s life in chambers as well as her time playing for Szentes in Hungary, click here to buy a copy of the March 2015 issue of Swimming Times.

Quick Interview 

British Para-Swimming needs to raise its standards after a decline in recent Paralympic Games – and national performance director Chris Furber believes they are on course to do that.

It’s been a busy 20 months since you took over as national performance director for para-swimming. Are you where you hoped to be at this stage in the role?

Yes. I think we are largely where I expected to be. I was asked to take quite a watchful role at first, right up to the world championships in Montreal (August 2013), to observe and then implement the changes I felt were needed. 

In the first winter I made changes to the coaching team. Bringing in Rob Greenwood was a major coup. To persuade a major coach in able-bodied swimming that switching to para-swimming was a good career move was a huge achievement. 

The next step was to align our performance support with what the athletes needed. This meant defining the performance question for each athlete. By that I mean what each of them was aiming to achieve.

Once we had that, we could make sure we had the right support in place and that both the coaching and the science and medicine teams were completely interlocked.

To read the full interview click here to buy the March 2015 issue of Swimming Times. 

Robbie Renwick 

The Olympic finalist and former Commonwealth champion explains his decision to keep swimming despite missing out on Lottery funding.

The Commonwealth Games must seem a long time ago, but what are your best memories from Glasgow 2014?

 My best memory was definitely anchoring the men’s 4x200m relay, where we got a silver medal just behind Australia. I was really proud of the boys (Duncan Scott, Stephen Milne and Dan Wallace), who swam out of their skins to get me in the best possible position for a medal. It was a real team effort and having the support of the Scottish crowd behind me on that final length was an unbelievable experience and one I’ll never forget.

But the decision by British Swimming at the end of last year not to renew your funding must have come as a blow?

Yeah, it was. I was prepared for the news, but it’s always hard when the reality hits. Funding in swimming has gone through a difficult time in the last few years and, as such, British Swimming has a tough job in deciding who to support financially. The standard of GB swimming has also risen hugely since London 2012, with international medals fast becoming the norm, so it creates a much bigger talent pool to select from.

 For me, I’m using the decision as extra motivation to get back onto the Podium Performance squad and I definitely haven’t let it deter my focus on success in Rio 2016.

 To read Robbie's full interview you can click here to purchase a copy of the March 2015 issue of Swimming Times. 

Top Teachers  

ASA Swimtastic gold, silver and bronze award winners Rachael Cooper, Matt Thompson and Pawel Nowak share their stories and philosophies with Swimming Times.

When Rachael Cooper went into labour halfway through an adult swimming lesson, there was no hasty exit from Thamesmere Leisure Centre in south-east London.

Instead, Rachael completed the class and dashed home, where baby Joseph made a swift entry into the world – appropriately in a birthing pool. She explains: “My son came a week early. He was my second child. I was doing an adult lesson at 10 o’clock at night. I was halfway through and the contractions started and I thought, “Well, I’m halfway through, no-one can come in and cover, I might as well just carry on.” I had half-an-hour left. I live 10 minutes away so I went home, called the midwife, and he was born a couple of hours later in the living room. Luckily I planned for him to be born at home so he was born in a little pool.”

Rachael returned to teaching within seven weeks following the arrival of both Joseph – now four – and his sister Gracie, five. Simple economics meant she had little choice, given that she only received maternity pay for six weeks, as although she does full-time hours, instructors are termed as casual staff.

It was a testing time to find herself back on poolside full-time just weeks after giving birth with family and partner Zoe helping out.

“It was extremely difficult. I was breastfeeding both times. I tried to feed the baby just before I went, just enough for who was looking after them.”

The full article charts Rachael, Matt and Pawel’s teaching journeys revealing their philosophies along the way. click here to purchase a copy of the March 2015 issue of Swimming Times. 

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