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Reflecting on the life of Olympian and freestyle specialist Mike Turner

Swimming historian Ian Gordon reflects on the life of sprint freestyle specialist Mike Turner, who has died at the age of 72 – and reveals the unique tribute his Olympic teammates have suggested in his honour.

Mike Turner was England’s leading exponent of freestyle swimming in the mid-1960s.

A member of Stockport SC, he was coached throughout his career by Harry Sullivan and his early talent first emerged in 1964 when he won the National 110yd and 220yd Freestyle titles, as well as the junior 110yd Butterfly.

Mike’s career as an international freestyle swimmer began when he represented England at the 1966 Empire Games in Kingston, Jamaica, where he won three medals – silver in the medley relay and bronze in both the 4x110yds and 4x220yds Freestyle relays.

This success was followed up with three further medals the following year when he represented Great Britain at the 1967 World Student Games, in Tokyo, winning silvers in both freestyle relays and a bronze in the medley relay.

Mike had now established himself as a sprint freestyle specialist and was subsequently selected to represent Great Britain in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico.

Following individual success by making the semi-finals of the 110 yds freestyle, the highlight of his career came when together with Tony Jarvis, David Hembrow and the legendary Bobby MacGregor, the sprint freestyle team snatched an amazing fourth place.

National record holder

Tony has since paid tribute to Mike’s fantastic contribution in leading the team off in both the heats and semi-finals in a time of 55.5 seconds – and has suggested that his teammates should hold a 55.5 seconds silence in Mike’s honour!

Although British freestyle swimming in his era was dominated by the legendary McGregor, Olympic silver medallist and multi world record holder over 110 yards, Mike was England’s national record holder in this event winning the silver medal  in the 110yd and 220yd Freestyle events at the ASA Championships that year.

Following his successful swimming career, Mike went on to achieve a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering at Manchester University before starting his own record shop called Black Sedan in the early seventies, the favoured hang-out of any self-respecting music loving Manchester student in the seventies.

In later years, he had a successful career in the financial sector.

Mike was married twice, firstly to fellow international freestyle swimmer Diana Sutherland in 1978 and then to Jennifer in 2009.

Following the family tradition

Mike and Diana had three children together – Charlie, Stephanie and Natasha.

At the time of his death. Mike was living in Alderley Edge, Cheshire, and was a widower following the death of his Jennifer two years ago.

Anyone who knew Mike could see that his preoccupation in later life was the collection and consumption of good wine as witnessed by the dozens of books on the subject on display – and the hundreds of bottles he owned.

If 50m Freestyle had been an event in the late 1960s, this would surely have been Mike’s forte.

However, the family freestyle tradition continued when two of his children specialised very successfully in this event.

Natasha was a National age group medallist in this event and Charlie went on to represent Great Britain on a number of occasions.

Swim England and the swimming world sends its condolences to Mike’s family.

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