Time arrives for livesavers' recognition
SWIMMING: In the vast realm of today's sporting arena, competitive hopefuls can literally take their pick from all manner of testing challenges. Be it football, hockey, sailing, rugby, table-tennis or even bobsleigh – you're clearly never short on choice.
By Debbie Watson
IN the vast realm of today's sporting arena, competitive hopefuls can literally take their pick from all manner of testing challenges.
Be it football, hockey, sailing, rugby, table-tennis or even bobsleigh – you're clearly never short on choice.
And yet, long ignored from that sporting list, is a water-based challenge which so often fails to attract the attention it deserves; a sport as blatantly practical as it is physical: the sport of lifesaving.
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No, it may not rank in the top list of your Olympic suggestions, and it may not be celebrated through the names and the reputations of Britain's most impressive athletes, but it is, unquestionably, a competitive and commendable sport.
Here in Ipswich, lifesaving has rallied the interest of athletic contenders for decades.
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Since the late 1960s Ipswich Lifesaving Club has been existence in its own right and before that as a branch of the long-running town Swimming Club.
"There's no doubt that it's one of the sports that is more easily ignored by people," said club chairman, Terry Cloud.
"It doesn't immediately spring to mind as the competitive field that it really is – which is a shame, because it's something that can reward people of all ages."
Terry, something of a celebrated personality at the club's Fore Street pool, is fiercely proud of the sport and of this region's very own talented lifesavers.
"I've been chairman here for some 25 years and I'm always so pleased to see the members that grow up and move on within this club.
"This is a really disciplined sport and one with a great purpose. It makes me incredibly proud to be associated with something that encourages such commitment and something that helps make our youngsters into great and respectable people."
Besides the motivational aspect of Ipswich's club, it is also a clear contender in the national competitive arena.
Recently the club returned from the UK Finals in Manchester – bringing home several impressive titles.
And yet, in the face of an administrative error, their glory would have to go on hold.
"We had great success and I'm really pleased that the hard work paid off – particularly for the youngsters," commented Terry.
"Unfortunately, on the night itself, there was a problem with the scoring, and so we didn't officially receive our medals until some weeks later.
"It was a real shame, because that triumph is what makes the dedicated training so worthwhile."
Last week, however, The Evening Star stepped in to bring an 'official presentation' to the winners at their home pool. Now they are – triumphantly – back in training as normal.
The club meets every Friday at Fore Street for practice in the likes of resuscitation, rope-throwing, rescue incidents and towing. It has a surprisingly wide age span of committed competitors.
"There's no particular upper age limit here," remarked veteran life-saver, 55-year-old Marian Brown. "In fact, one thing that makes this club so special is the fact that young and old mix so well together – there's a real sense of family."
National men's contender, 29-year-old David Ebbs, added: "It's a great club and a really rewarding sport. It's just such a shame that, as an activity, it doesn't always get the recognition it so deserves."
If you're interested in joining the Ipswich Lifesaving Club, you can call membership secretary Jill James on Ipswich 724269.
Ipswich Lifesaving Club results at the UK finals in Manchester were as follows:
Junior Girls: Zena Watson & Sadie Pennell 9th.
Senior Girls: Hannah Arbon & Samantha Smith 11th.
Senior Boys: Matthew Cook & Michael Fuller 8th.
Men's Individual: David Ebbs 9th.
Ladies Masters: Marian Brown 1st.
Men's Masters: Robin Johnson 10th.
Men's Masters: Terry Cloud 1st.