Ipswich swimmers show their class

EAST Anglia's top swimming contingent arrived in Ipswich at the weekend, to bid for victory in a two-day designated open-meet.Around 500 competitive club swimmers – plucked from all over Suffolk, Norfolk and beyond – fought for medal-contention in the well-supported annual gala.

By Debbie Watson


EAST Anglia's top swimming contingent arrived in Ipswich at the weekend, to bid for victory in a two-day designated open-meet.

Around 500 competitive club swimmers – plucked from all over Suffolk, Norfolk and beyond – fought for medal-contention in the well-supported annual gala.

A further 400 would-be racers had already been rejected in the pre-event stages, owing to the event's huge popularity.

As the host club, Ipswich emerged ever impressive, recording a massive tally of wins and personal bests.

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Taking overall second position to Cambridge, Ipswich put up a tough fight throughout.

Of the very best performances across Saturday and Sunday, Ipswich's Rachel Keeley amassed a superb collection of achievements.

Swimming in the 10 & 11 year-old age category, she was the only club swimmer to walk away with the title of 'Top Girl' for a specific age group, and did so after winning three events, coming second in one, and third in three others.

Dozens of national times were secured in the event, together with numerous personal bests for Suffolk's talented swimmers.

Club chairman, Steve Baker, said he was thrilled with the event turn-out, and added his personal congratulations to all those who had fought so hard for podium positions.

"It was a great event, with superb performances and excellent results

all round.

"Ipswich Swimming Club is always proud to host such an event, and it really was great to see so many local swimmers swim so well."

He added: "Events like this make you realise how dedicated and committed these people are to their sport, and just how much talent we have in the local area.

"Given our swimmers, our coaches, and our supporters it is clear that swimming continues to have a very bright future in Ipswich."

Steve added his appreciation to those who had given up their time for the two-day meet.

He said: "Thanks to every one who helped make the event such a success, from the organisers and officials to the parents and poolside staff, but most of all thanks to the swimmers - congratulations to every one who took part."

Ipswich Swimming Club has had a successful recent history on the pool-based circuit, much of it highlighted with the success of Karen Pickering.

Last November it was labelled the 'best club set-up' by a top national coach.

British Swimming's newly appointed Performance Director, Bill Sweetenham, praised the Suffolk club for its facilities and coach professionalism.

He said all coaches should visit Ipswich to observe its particularly high standards.


BRITISH and Suffolk swimming sensation, Karen Pickering, was notably missing from the line-up at her club's latest open event here in Ipswich.

In fact 30, year-old Karen had granted herself a well-deserved break from the pool this weekend, following a tough round of high-competition European galas.

Together with fellow Ipswich swimmer, Zoe Cray the Ipswich star has just returned from a three-stop European leg of the World Cup Tour.

For two days, and in various races staged in Berlin, Paris and Stockholm, the duo were testing their performance in preparation for the Commonwealth Games trials.

Bidding for glory against the world's finest swimmers, Karen and Zoe both swam some 15 races each.

Karen said: "A tour like that is extremely intense, and so it is always very tiring.

"We even swim on the travel days, and on our rest days, so you really do start to feel it.

"But saying that, it's a good experience, and it's certainly perfect practise for something like the Commonwealth trials."

She added: "I struggled a bit in Berlin, but it was just a part of the training process you go through.

"Overall, I felt really happy with the results I achieved. I was pleased with how I was swimming and I really feel good about my chances for the Commonwealth trials."

Over the course of the event, Karen claimed two silver and two bronze medals, while also managing to seal a new county time for 50 metres freestyle.

Zoe consistently proved her strength throughout the tour, making the finals for the 50 metres and 100 metres Freestyle at all venues.

The Ipswich partnership will now return to training, concentrating on the Commonwealth trials in April.

ARE Suffolk's children missing out on valuable swimming education?

A recent nation-wide report, issued by MPs, has created startling concerns over a lack of water-based instruction in childhood.

It argues that a lack of swimming teaching, and a shortage in qualified teachers, could be putting our youngsters at risk.

The report first became public knowledge last month, when MPs declared that many schools were cutting back on swimming time – and others were abandoning lessons altogether.

Around Suffolk, most schools regularly use their own, or local authority pools to bring valuable water safety knowledge to their pupils. Although not often realised by some parents, swimming education does in fact form part of the core National Curriculum format.

Seemingly, our county is not alone in experiencing difficulties within pool-education.

Last week, Suffolk County Council advertised for several instructor posts across the region – mostly for teaching school-aged children at public or school pools.

"There are good reasons for those vacancies, and we really won't know whether there is a genuine shortage of teachers until we can assess the level of applications," commented head of Suffolk Schools' Swimming Service, Carol Lukins.

"Yes, there has definitely been a decline in swimming taking place through schools, but by and large, the majority of county schoolchildren are getting a swimming education."

Stressing that swimming is still considered an essential priority within the region, Carol added: "Swimming in Suffolk still has a very high profile and the vast number of pupils are getting lessons in Key Stage level one or two.

"It remains a priority that youngsters should get this early and valuable education in water safety."