Sandwell Aquatics Centre, November 2021

By Justine Doody

I have worked for Wates Construction for 27 years and have been involved in many fantastic projects over my time. However, there is one scheme that we are currently working on that has particularly stood out based on my own personal interests. 

Wates were selected as main contractor for the Sandwell Aquatics Centre in Smethwick back in 2018. After spending a long period in close consultation with numerous stakeholders and working collaboratively with the clients consultants, the final design and costs were agreed, and we started on site in September 2019.

Even though I am not based on this site, I am lucky to get the chance to go out and visit my colleagues on a regular basis and have a good look at how the scheme is progressing. I had previously seen drawings, photographs and even drone footage, however on my first visit to site, I was totally overwhelmed by the sheer size of facility. There has been over 3,000m3 of concrete used in the construction of the pools and 190,000 pool tiles laid !!

The scheme includes 3 separate pools, complete with moveable floors to provide flexibility around the use – from beginners and toddlers needing a shallow pool, continuous depth for competition swimming or water polo, through to the provision of much needed elite training facilities for diving within the Black Country and West Midlands.

The £73m project is due to be completed (first phase for Games use only) in Spring 2022 and will be the host for the diving and swimming events for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

After the Games, we return to site to transform into a state-of-the-art leisure facility providing additional community facilities which will open to the public in May 2023.

Facilities will include:

  • 50m competition pool (with 2 booms to allow flexibility in use)
  • separate 25m diving pool with a 10m dive tower 
  • 20m studio pool
  • permanent spectators seating for 1,000 with an additional 4,000 on a temporary basis for the Games.
  • dry diving centre
  • 3 activity studios
  • sports hall 
  • 108 station gym
  • 25 station ladies only gym
  • indoor cycling studio
  • external grass football pitch with changing facilities 
  • café

Masters Swimming in 2022

The good news is that Masters swimming is alive and well and we would love you to join in the action. It really isn’t too early to think about your plans for 2022 and begin to plan a program to get ready for competition. Here are a few pointers to get you started…

The Black Country n Potteries website gives ALL the information you need:

The governing body Swim England site has a lot of advice at:

One of our BCPM members, Phil Carpenter, runs an excellent Masters training scheme from Bridgnorth pool. Further info: If that’s not convenient, contact us through our website and we’ll try to help with other suitable training opportunities in your area.

Check our Events Calendar for a draft schedule of competitions in 2022.

Swim England Short Course Masters Nationals, Sheffield – 29–31 October 2021

Day one of the National Short Course Masters at Sheffield saw drama, trepidation and glee. Kath, Lindsey and Richard were all at Ponds Forge whilst Martyn Finney battled every constraint to reach the venue on time. Frozen to a standstill on the M42, Martyn looked to have no hope whatsoever of reaching the poolside for the 5.00pm deadline. However, given the smallest of chances, Martyn broke all legal (+illegal) means, parking his car, catching a tram and running the final lap into the pool. Congratulations Martyn, a true team player. To cap it off, the squad were delighted with their bronze medal in the the 240+ Mixed Medley.

Elsewhere in the arena Kath won gold in the 100 free and within the hour followed up with a win in the 50 back in a tight finish. Lindsey won bronze in the 100 free and swam an excellent 50 breast to achieve silver in grand style.

Mid way through the National Masters Championships in Sheffield and Richard Hinsley started his account in the pool with a couple of very respectable swims. 2.37.57 in the 200 free and 5.30.36 in the 400 metres. Kath had to be at her best to take the crown in the 50 Free. In a highly competitive field she broke the 34s barrier with a 33.89, a season’s best. Lindsey followed up with an excellent bronze in her 50 Free with another seasons best of 31.34. Later Kath was disqualified in her 200 back for a technicality on her final turn.

The relay squad Kath, Richard Woodall, Martyn Finney and Lindsey, battled throughout their 240+ Freestyle Relay to gain a bronze behind a strong Barnet Copthall team and close to Trafford Metro. Thanks to Richard and Martyn for travelling to the meet just for club relay swims.

Best call the final Sunday of the National Masters Championship in Sheffield ‘Brilliant Butterfly Day’. Lindsey Gowland claimed a scintillating victory in the 50 Fly in 35.55; her nearest rival was nearly 5 seconds behind. Richard Hinsley was well pleased with his own 50 fly with a time of 35.02. Kath Tunnicliffe finished her weekend with Silver in the 100 Backstroke. A great meet and BCPM swimmers were certainly in the mix, well done guys!

Plymouth – 5 September 2021

Lindsey, Richard and Kath, Plymouth Sept 2021

At the very first competitive opportunity since March 2020 three Black Country n Potteries Masters swimmers travelled 200 miles to race in Plymouth. 

Richard Hinsley stormed a 400 free 5.27.67 and followed up with a 1.27.28 in the 100 fly. Kath produced a 40.60, 50 back and 34.56, 50 free. Lindsey blasted a 31.82 in the same event. All agreed they felt really rusty being back in competition, especially using starting blocks. 

Results below:

Kath TunnicliffeWomens 50m Freestyle65–69134.53
Womens 100m Freestyle65–6921:18.30
Womens 50m Backstroke65–69140.61
Womens 100m Backstroke65–6911:32.20
Lindsey GowlandWomens 50m Freestyle60–64131.84
Womens 50m Breaststroke60–64143.68
Womens 50m Butterfly60–64136.37
Richard HinsleyMens 200m Freestyle35–3912:36.10
Mens 400m Freestyle35–3915:27.60
Mens 50m Butterfly35–39337.35
Mens 100m Butterfly35–3911:27.20

An alternative way to Tokyo

By Tony Ward

It is the ambition of many Technical Swimming Officials to be involved in a major competition. Many see this as the National Championships where they’ll see some of the worlds best athletes competing for a title or aiming to get into the international team.

Sometimes you get “lucky” and officiate at a higher level and strangely enough, the harder you work and the more knowledge you have of the rules, the luckier you get!

I started my journey in early 1970s when I became a timekeeper. I have since taken a number of qualifications, specialising in Para Swimming. Now I find myself in the World Para Swimming Core Group of officials consisting of the top 25 Para Officials in the World.

It was always said you only do one major Games – such as the Olympics or Paralympics – once in a lifetime. My luck has extended this to four Games spanning 13 years.

In 2018 I was selected for the Tokyo Paralympics as Assistant Technical Delegate by World Para Swimming (WPS). For those not familiar with this role, it is a position working with the Technical Delegate (TD) who is appointed to oversee all technical matters, including the set up and conduct of the competition, and ensures the WPS Rules and Regulations are upheld.

Alongside the TD role, I have been involved in all aspects of the organisation of Tokyo Paralympics 2020. Yes, it’s still called Tokyo 2020. The postponement of the event to 2021 has brought in many other challenges, from Athletes arrival in the Paralympic Village to COVID-safe Victory Ceremonies.

From being a simple swimming official, I’m now involved in:

  • Officials’ Training and selection
  • The programme of events and their viability 
  • Minute-by-minute timeline to inform Broadcast’s Worldwide coverage
  • Callroom sizes
  • Athletes flows around the building (COVID friendly)
  • Number of accessible toilets
  • Athletes spectating area estimating number of wheelchairs, 
  • Swimming Pool water circulation, Turbulence Test, Water Treatment, 
  • Victory Ceremonies, 
  • Camera Positioning, 
  • Equipment lists from extension leads to Starting Blocks
  • Transport from Village to venue – not an easy task with accessible transport.
  • Team Leaders Guide
  • Games Officials Guide

The list goes on and this is before we get to the start of the competition itself!

It’s been challenging, frustrating, demanding, but most of all fun. I’m so proud to be involved with an excellent team who I’m sure will deliver golden opportunities for athletes.

On behalf of Black Country n Potteries Masters, we wish you all the best for a successful Games Tony!

Staffs Masters Championships, 7 March 2020

Nine members of Black Country n Potteries Masters Swim Club participated in the Staffs Masters Championships at Stafford on Saturday 7 March. Between them they chalked up 31 individual golds, 6 silvers and 1 bronze medal. The 4 relay squads were undefeated.

Tony Ward obliterated the 65-69 yrs, 25 metres Breaststroke County Record with a time of 18.58. This knocked nearly 10 seconds off the previous record established 24 years ago! 

Anne Turner achieved 6 individual golds in the 35-39 yr age group, Justine Doody and Kath Tunnicliffe took 5 golds apiece in their respective age groups. 

Newcomer to masters swimming, Claire Porter, impressed by taking all three county breaststroke titles in her 55-59 yr age group.

The women’s 200+ medley team: Tracy Ellis, Claire Porter, Lindsey Gowland and Anne Turner and the mixed 200+ freestyle squad: Anne Turner, Richard Woodall, Lindsey Gowland and Tony Ward both had the distinction of not only winning their own age group but beating all opposition in the one below, 160+.

Three members of the squad travel to Sheffield in April for the British Long Course Championships before travelling to Budapest for the European Championships in June. A number of club swimmers are expected at Gloucester in May for their annual meet.  

2019 FINA World Masters Championships – Gwangju, South Korea

The FINA World Masters Championships took place in Gwangju between the 5th and 18th August, 2019. Our very own Kath Tunnicliffe competed at the event, this is her story:

“In order to begin to describe Gwangju 2019 I have to go back 19 years to the Munich World Masters in 2000. After just a couple of seasons ‘in masters’ I had thrown the idea of competing at international level to swim buddy, Lindsey Gowland and she’d agreed to go!  That was THE meet to signal ‘lift off’. Once I’d been to a World event, and been inspired watching five guys over 90 years old swim 100 free in front of 5000 cheering spectators in the Olympic pool, and then to my absolute delight, achieved an 8th place in my age group for 50 back, I was smitten.

Fast forward to 2019……the world masters usually follows the elite event by a couple of weeks. This was the case in Gwangju. I’d sat at home and watched most of the World Champs TV coverage, this experience added to the excitement of seeing the real thing. Like London 2016 and Budapest 2017 the magnificent pool had been extended with a temporary spectator wing making the capacity 11,000. Pretty awe inspiring.

The competition pool with temporary spectator stand on the left.

The complex also had a 50 metre warm up pool with   lanes for diving practice and a dedicated backstroke start lane. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that at times you risked life and limb in the warm up pool as there was little or no pool management. This was pretty shameful, as several over 75 year olds became too frightened to use the warm up facility during the competition. 

Not surprisingly, given the location, there were more Korean, Australian Japanese and Chinese competitors than European or American. 119 Brits attended in all disciplines, (I have absolutely no idea about the diving, synchro and water polo competitions). From a personal point of view a couple of key world-class swimmers were absent from my age-group, giving me a realistic chance of top placings in all my events. My final medal tally was 9 medals: 2 golds, 1 silver, 3 bronze and 3 fourth placings which is stunning but like every other competitor you always wish for a little  more! (see my later comment) 

The Koreans created magnificent victory ceremonies.  Medals were presented to the top 6 placings with additional mascots for the top three spots.

Left. Spencer’s 280 + winning team in the Freestyle Relay joined by teams from Brazil (2nd) and Korea (3rd and 4th); Right. 65-69 50m Backstroke. A Canadian (2nd) two Aussies (1st and 3rd) Me (4th), a Japanese (5th) and a Korean (6th)

 Whatever feeling I gained from the awe inspiring pool and the buzz of the competition I think there is one emotion which tops the lot: the interaction with competitors from all over the world. I always transfer my collection of pin badges  onto my accreditation lanyard, this attracts interest and starts new conversations. I renewed acquaintances with my Mexican and Hungarian friends and made new ones from Australia, China, Russia, America, Botswana, Trinidad and Fiji. In the spirit of friendship, my shirt has been exchanged and is now in Shanghai, my caps are in Korea and Mexico.

Top left. Mexican, Lili Vaca. We met in Budapest 2017, and it was great to renew acquaintances, she’s completely mad! Bottom left. lovely gentlemen from Trinidad and Fiji.  Right. Jie Li, working in Shanghai. My shirt went home with her.                       

As I was travelling alone I made two decisions to give me a better experience. One, to join a club which would give me relay opportunities and two, to stay in the athletes village. The first, swimming for Spencer Club, London, was a wise choice, the second I have mixed feelings about.

The Spencer Squad

It’s difficult to describe the athletes village, 20 large skyscrapers, newly built, all of their interiors were covered to protect walls, floors, kitchen units, they included a few pieces of essential furniture but lacked comfort. The village was set up as it had been for the elite swimmers. It included shops, a hairdressers, gym, techno display, massage centre, and excellent free medical facility, laundry, tour desk, and bank, all of which were manned by helpful staff and volunteers. There was excellent free transport to the venue, the train station, and the underground. Breakfast was included in the price of the accommodation and the breakfast buffet was brilliant and included every conceivable dish one could desire inc. Western, Asian, Halãl, and Vegan options.

Things were very different in the evenings and I’m sure this is one aspect which must have been much better for the elite athletes. The menu was really limited, the food was uninspiring, overpriced, with almost no options for me as a vegetarian. The surrounding neighbourhood also seemed to offer few alternatives for a non meat/fish eater. Next to the dining room there was a stage with a programme of performances every night. These shows were quite good, they were mainly frequented by the local Koreans, and didn’t seem to be of very much interest to the swimmers.

Korea (or what little I saw) is a blend of Chinese and Japanese cultures. People are very polite, really helpful, it’s safe, the streets are really clean, the cities are big with hundreds of skyscrapers, the country side is full of paddy fields and there is a preoccupation with mobile phones ( sound familiar? ) 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this account, let me know if you have any specific questions. I am pretty sure I would not have travelled quite so far, at such expense, just to swim. The attraction was visiting China, which added two more weeks to my travels. I am, however, really looking forwards to the possibility of swimming with the Black Country n Potteries team at future European meets. Oh, one more thing I hit my hand badly on the lane rope in my first event, the 200 backstroke. Apart from a visit to the medical centre, I completely put the incident out of my mind but now, five weeks later, I am pretty certain I have a hairline fracture in my left hand.  I’m really pleased with myself, because I carried on regardless and swam 8 more events pretty well!”

From all of us at Black Country n Potteries – CONGRATULATIONS KATH!

Swim England Open Water Masters National Championships, 1 September 2019

In the UK, masters pool competitions take a break over the summer* so open water events offer something to aim for until the autumn race season kicks back into gear.

The open water summer season culminates with Swim England Open Water Masters National Championships, this year taking place on Sunday 1st September at Nene Park, Peterborough. The championships offer 2km, 3km and 5km events for both men and women. Black Country n Potteries swimmer, Anne Turner, had signed up at the last minute to take part in the 3km event.   

It was a sunny, but windy day at Nene Park on 1st September. The venue was brilliant; amazing changing facilities, hot showers, a cafe, and plenty of space for spectating. The atmosphere was a friendly and happy one, and the event was well coordinated with clear race briefings, and plenty of officials and volunteers on hand. There was even race commentary provided by James Gibson – GB Olympian and the coach to several World Champions – which was a really nice touch and made it all feel a bit special.

The weather gods had been having fun in the lead up to Nationals, and water temperatures in the run up to the event ranged from a high of 24C to a low of 18 degrees. FINA Open Water competition rules dictate that when water temperatures are above 20C wetsuits are not permitted, and below they are optional down to 18C. From 16C they become mandatory. In the end, the water temperature was recorded at 19.3 so wetsuits were permitted, and were by far the most popular option.

Anne’s race went well, and she got off cleanly from the start letting the sprinters fight it out and settling in behind. Anne was racing against some good competition, with a World silver medalist among them but felt that a medal wasn’t entirely out of reach. Delivering a well controlled swim, Anne came home convincingly in silver medal position, “I couldn’t have swum that race any better than I did, all I can do is work on getting stronger and faster for next time”. 

*Masters swimming in the UK has two main blocks of competitions; March to June culminating with British Masters LC Championships, and then September to November with SC Nationals taking place at the end of October. These dates sometimes shift around a bit depending on International events such as Worlds and Europeans.

British Masters Championships, Swansea – 14-16 June 2019

Seven Black Country n Potteries swimmers claimed four National Long Course relay team Golds, five individual wins, three second and three third places. They produced an amazing display in Swansea this weekend.

Here are the winning squads:

Philip Carpenter, Kath Tunnicliffe, Lindsey Gowland and Martyn Finney won 240+ 200m and 400m Mixed Freestyle.

Sharon Evans, Kath Tunnicliffe, Anne Turner and Lindsey Gowland won the 200+ 400m Women’s Medley.

Sharon Evans, Jennifer Powell, Lindsey Gowland and Kath Tunnicliffe won the 200+ 200 Women’s Medley.