Golden weekend as National Arena Swimming League celebrates 50th cup final

They’ll be flying more than the backstroke turn flags at the National Arena Swimming League finals this weekend – as the cup final marks its 50th anniversary.

The event, taking place at the Cardiff International Pool on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 March, will be a celebratory occasion with Commonwealth Games champions Adam Peaty and Alys Thomas scheduled to attend.

Guildford City, Wycombe District, Plymouth Leander, City of Cardiff A, City of Oxford A, Hatfield, Millfield, Stockport Metro, Northampton A and City of Derby A will all compete in the cup final.

The B final will be contested by Mount Kelly, Team Ipswich, Bromley, City of Milton Keynes, Sevenoaks, Thanet, Camden Swiss Cottage, City of Cambridge, Southport and Worcester.

The National Arena Swimming League also has a new website and will be streaming the finals live.

A revised and updated online history of the competition has been written and it is hoped some of the other stars who have competed in the competition will also be attending the event.

Peaty (City of Derby) and Becky Adlington (Nottingham Leander) are among scores of Olympians who have graced the finals weekend of Britain’s biggest and most popular inter-club competition.

Two competed when they were reigning Olympic champions – Adrian Moorhouse for City of Leeds following his gold in Seoul in 1988 and fellow 100m breaststroker Ruta Meilutyte, of Plymouth Leander, after her success aged 15 at London 2012.

Meilutyte is also among 11 Olympians whose names currently feature among the league finals’ record holders.

Competing with the stars

League secretary Ian Mackenzie says the opportunity for youngsters to compete alongside their international club-mates continues to be one of the competition’s biggest attractions.

“It’s one of the few competitions where the 10-year-olds get to swim with their senior team-mates,” he said.

“As a competition, it’s important to the swimming community and is recognised by the Swim England Talent team because the athletes are swimming for their clubs rather than themselves.

“In the last few years we have managed to get the leagues licensed, which means swimmers times are put on to the rankings.

“Most youngsters are team players so many of them do PBs on the day.”

After the 50th cup final, officials will need to start planning for the 21st anniversary of the B final, which has effectively doubled the number of clubs involved in the finals since its launch in 2001.

Twenty teams now compete in the finals weekend, including the winners and runners-up of the six local leagues, compared to only eight teams in a single final 20 years ago.

Fourteen different clubs have won the cup final since it started in 1970, with City of Leeds the most prolific winners with 17 titles between 1980 and 2004.

Last year, Plymouth Leander amassed a record points tally of 427 to win their eighth title at Cardiff, with home club City of Cardiff taking the B final trophy.

  • A version of this article first appeared in Swimming Times.