Fit for the Channel, but not Broomhill!
MIKE Read is King of the Channel but he's been told he can't swim alone at an Ipswich pool, The Evening Star can reveal.At 61, the Sproughton man has swum the English Channel 31 times and for the last 25 years has had his own key for the Broomhill Swimming Pool so he can train as much as possible in outdoor conditions.
By Jessica Nicholls
MIKE Read is King of the Channel but he's been told he can't swim alone at an Ipswich pool, The Evening Star can reveal.
At 61, the Sproughton man has swum the English Channel 31 times and for the last 25 years has had his own key for the Broomhill Swimming Pool so he can train as much as possible in outdoor conditions.
But the world record breaking swimmer has now been left high and dry by Ipswich Borough Council which has taken this privilege away.
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The council has decided that Mr Read can no longer swim in the pool when it is not open to the public, even though he always has a chaperone and a walkie-talkie with him which could alert staff to any difficulty.
A furious Mr Read told the Star: "Even though I have a chaperone with me, the staff at the pool have said they cannot possibly do their jobs and keep an eye on me at the same time. It makes me feel very miserable, depressed and sad."
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Mr Read fears that the row might jeopardise his chances at competitions. He needs to swim twice a day to be able to train properly, but has already missed four swims this week.
Today he was due to take part in the National Championships at Holme Pierre Point in Nottingham and vowed to go ahead with it even though he would not be at peak fitness because of the row.
He said: "It is such a beautiful pool – 50 metres long and perfect for training.
"The only alternative is the sea at Felixstowe, but you risk your life because the currents are so
Mr Read also finds it difficult to swim in Broomhill Pool when the public are there.
He said: "I just have to swim in circles as they put a boom in there to section it off if people want to dive. It's just like swimming widths."
Mr Read first swam the channel in 1969 – and just kept rising to the challenge.
He said: "In 1979 I swam the Channel six times. It's unbelievably tough – it's like nothing else."
As well as swimming the Channel, Mr Read has a string of awards and records to his name.
He holds 18 world records for swimming the Channel and in 1960 he was a member of Great Britain's Olympic swimming team in Rome.
From 1969 to 1977, he was British long distance champion. In 1974, he became the third person to swim across Loch Ness, as well as swimming the 22 miles across Loch Lomond twice.
Mr Read has swum many thousands of miles in his lifetime, and a medical last month deemed him still fit to swim the Channel – if he wishes – but that it seems is not enough for the borough council who run Broomhill.
Colin Grogan is operations manager for the swimming centres owned by Ipswich council. He said the decision had been made following a review when the pool opened earlier this year.
Mr Grogan said: "The most important thing for us is the safety of our customers. We want to make sure Mike can swim and train, but don't want his safety put at risk. He needs to swim when there is a supervisor at the pool."
Although Mr Grogan acknowledged that Mr Read always had someone with him when he swam, he said the competence of that person to deal with an emergency needed to be looked at.
He said: "As a local authority we have a duty to make sure people using the premises are safe. Failure to do that could have serious consequences."
Mr Grogan said they were in talks with Mr Read to try to reach a compromise over the situation.