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In memory of ‘great champion’ and record breaking swimmer Dorothy Williams

A reflection on the life of King’s Cormorants Swimming Club member Dorothy Williams, who has died at the age of 96.

Dorothy had a life-long passion for swimming and her favourite read was the Swimming Times magazine.

She won more than 700 medals, her first was at the age of 11 as she was spurred on by her fathers’ promise of half a crown if she won. However, the majority were won as a masters swimmer.

Her career in swimming started at Hounslow Baths in 1954 as a bath attendant and whilst there she joined Hounslow Swimming Club.

In her words, this was where she “learned to swim properly” and then in 1962 she qualified as a swimming teacher.

Dorothy spent many happy years teaching swimming in schools in Uxbridge, Ealing and Hayes in West London.

She got back into swimming in 1987 when her friends encouraged her to enter an open water swim across the Fowey Estuary, Cornwall.

At 64-years-old, she finished seventh out of more than 30 swimmers and from there she decided to investigate further swimming opportunities.

A short time later, Dorothy travelled to her first GB Masters competition in Aberavon, Wales, alongside her great friend and fellow world record breaking masters swimmer, Dorothy Weston.

After claiming two silver medals her passion for swimming had been rekindled.

Successful journey

Dorothy had a very successful masters swimming journey which took her all over the world, competing in Rome, Florence, Rio, Montreal, Paris and her favourite, Guernsey.

The UK destination proved to be her favourite as this was where she set two world records in the 100m and 200m Breaststroke and four GB records in the 85-89 age group in 2008.

As well as these individual accolades, Dorothy was part of the relay team that holds the longest standing GB swimming record – the Mixed 320+ medley.

Her last competitive swim was in 2016 after an eight-year break due to a series of health setbacks.

She showed great determination to participate in the European Masters at London’s Olympic pool and was cheered on by many of her swimming friends and relatives including both her grandsons.

The event saw her win gold in the 50m Backstroke to become the oldest-ever British female European swimming champion, aged 92.

After winning she said: “It’s eight years since I last competed and I really enjoyed swimming in the Olympic pool, the atmosphere was awesome – it was just like Wembley on a cup final night only bigger.”

Dorothy was a great champion of swimming and believed that ‘it was magical and beneficial both mentally and physically’.