Andrew Czyzewski is a journalist and Masters swimmer with Borough of Kirklees and Camden Swiss Cottage. In this blog he talks about the memorable swimming pools which inspired and shaped his love of swimming.
Memorable Swimming Pools
For most keen swimmers, pools are special and revered places, much more than just four walls enclosing an artificial body of water. Whether you swim to compete or just to unwind, they evoke feelings and memories.
I’d go as far saying they are like our cathedrals (replete with chlorine ‘incense’…and authoritative priest-like coaches) and many of us enjoy the novelty of visiting and swimming in new pools. No two are exactly the same and we all have our favourites for very different reason.
Whether it is the splendid architecture of our remaining Victorian-era pools, or the feeling of steam rising off a heated lido pool in winter. Or maybe it’s where you met your partner or you found a new lease of life after a difficult time.
For me personally, one of the most memorable swimming pools I have swum in will always loom large in the consciousness. It may not exactly be my favourite, but certainly the most formative. That is the old Leeds International Pool, where I first tried my hand at serious competitive sport aged around 11 years.
I vividly remember the journey there on the M62, belly tied up in knots with nerves, then arriving to see that that imposing, fortress-like exterior.
Inside it was no less intimidating, with the large sloping spectator stands creating a cauldron atmosphere, amplifying the cacophony of screaming parents. In the water, to a boy used to training in 25 yards, it seemed the wall would never come in that 50m expanse.
I had some fantastic highs there (and was lucky enough to win county and regional titles) but also some real lows, questioning whether I wanted to continue with this sometimes unforgiving sport. Regardless, I learned a lot about preparation and dealing with failure in that place, lessons I’ve taken forward in life.
A lasting legacy
The pool is now demolished, and effectively replaced at a different site at the John Charles Centre. I swam for the first time at that pool earlier this year. It was a slick and thoroughly modern facility, but for me it lacked that sense of occasion of its predecessor. Or maybe I’m just getting old and nostalgic.
In some respects I think the spiritual successor to Leeds International might be the terrific London Aquatics Centre. The dramatic interior and liberal use of concrete, to me it feels like swimming inside some sort of living organic spaceship!
Knowing that you’re in the same water as the legends that swam there in the 2012 Olympics is cause for reflection too, (and most importantly for Yorkshireman, it’s good value, at £3.50 a swim off-peak!). I’m now really looking forward to competing there alongside many of you at the European Masters Championships in May.
Anyway, enough about me, I’d love to hear from other Masters swimmers about what their favourite or most memorable swimming pools are and why. Take a minute or two to pen a few sentences in the Masters Community.