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Sue Barrington says it was an ‘absolute honour’ to receive the Mary Black Award

Sue Barrington described it as an ‘absolute honour’ to receive the Mary Black Award at the Swim England Artistic Swimming National Junior and Senior Championships 2023.

Sue originally started out in ballet dancing, but turned to artistic swimming once she discovered she could do ‘ballet in the water’ and has now been involved in the sport for more than 50 years.

The Mary Black Award is presented annually to a person who has provided outstanding service to the sport of artistic swimming.

After being unveiled as the winner of the award, Sue said: “It’s an absolute honour. I’m thrilled to bits to be selected – I’m still in shock!”

Sue’s journey started out as a swimmer and she later went on to complete her judging qualifications, which led to a very successful period of judging for more than 20 years.

This resulted in her being selected to judge for Great Britain and being able to attend international events, such as the Senior Europeans in Moscow in 2010.

“It was a great honour to be chosen to judge abroad. Quite stressful, but a great honour,” said Sue.

Rewarding seeing swimmers progress

Not content with just judging, she was also a founding member of one of the most successful clubs – City of Leeds Synchronised Swimming Club.

When Sue had to take redundancy in 2010, she saw the chance to take artistic swimming on in a bigger way and took up a job with Leeds City Council as a full-time artistic swimming coach for the club.

She has coached swimmers from beginners to international level and, as an administrator, Sue also works tirelessly to organise competitions, grade days and development days.

She added: “My day-to-day job now involves mainly coaching, but there’s a lot of admin work which includes finding coaching cover, liaising with parents and finding pool space when galas fill our training time.

“It’s so rewarding seeing the swimmers progress and enjoying the sport.

“Seeing the swimmers achieve what they want to achieve when we come to competitions, whether it be a certain score or even a medal, it’s just fantastic to see and knowing you’ve been a little part of that journey.”

Unique and fantastic sport

When asked about what she would say to those thinking of volunteering in artistic swimming or taking part in the sport, she encouraged everyone to get involved with this ‘fantastic sport’.

“It’s great – there’s excellent team morale and camaraderie in the sport that’s really unique.”

Maria Ramos, chairperson of the Artistic Swimming Leadership Group (ASLG), said: “The Mary Black Award is one of our most prestigious trophies in artistic swimming as it gives us a chance to recognise those people who, without their dedication, the sport would not thrive.

“The ASLG were thrilled to be able to reward Sue’s passion and dedication to the sport over such a long period of time and to thank her for everything she has done and continues to do for the sport.”

Sue’s dedication to the sport has made her a part of hundreds of artistic swimmers’ journeys, particularly within Yorkshire.

As the club stated within their nomination – without Sue, City of Leeds would not have thrived and become the successful club that it is today.

See all the previous winners of the Mary Black Award, here.

To find out more about volunteering opportunities, email [email protected].

Story written by Jess Arnold.