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.

Midlands Masters, Rugby -18/19 May 2019

Twelve Black Country n Potteries members completed the Midlands Masters Championships in Rugby. Between them they amassed a total of 22 golds, 12 silvers and 6 bronze medals. On the way they set 12 new County, 3 Midland and 3 new (and extremely prestigious) club relay records. 

On day one BCPM, 200+, 200 metres, Mixed Freestyle Team took championship gold. Sharon Evans, Martyn Finney, Justine Doody and Phil Carpenter set an impressive new club mark of 2.05.12 to become district winners.

Kath Tunnicliffe swam to a new Midlands and County Record mark in the 65+ 200 Backstroke in a time of 3.10.75. 

County record breakers involved Phil Carpenter 50 Breast and 100 IM, Lindsey Gowland 50 Breast and 100 IM, Sharon Evans 100 Fly, Tracy Ellis 200 Back and Richard Woodall 200 Breast. 

Hannah Woodall stretched her horizons with a competent 100 IM and achieved Silver in the 200 Breast. Sharon Evans competed 3 more of her decathlon events in fine style, 100 Fly Bronze, 100 IM Silver and 100 Back Silver.

On the second day of competition, Tony Ward led the 240+ Mens Freestyle relay off to a blistering start in their 200m relay. In the process he set a new 65+, 50m Freestyle, Staffs and Midlands record, with a time of 29.37. The squad also involved Martyn Finney, Richard Woodall and Phil Carpenter. They were matched all the way by Kenilworth Masters. On the final leg Phil managed to edge ahead to claim victory for BCPM. The tables were turned later in the day, when in the Medley relay, Kenilworth took their revenge, in an equally thrilling race. The BCPM lads have the honour of setting new marks for these events in the club relay record table.

Not to be outdone the girls successfully defended both their 200+, 200m Freestyle and Medley relay titles. Gold medal winning teams featured, Anne, Tracy, Justine, Diane, Sharon, Lindsey and Kath.

Lindsey Gowland nailed a new Staffs and Midlands record with a time of 1.10.16 in the 60+, ladies 100m freestyle.

New county record marks were also set by Tracy Ellis 100 breast and 200 IM, and Martyn Finney 200 Fly.

Gold medals also went to Kath Tunnicliffe 100 free, 50 back and 50 fly, Lindsey Gowland 50 Fly, Justine Doody 200 IM and Diane Asbury 200 free. Justine also took Silver in the 100 free and 100 breast, Phil Carpenter, Silver in the 100 free and 50 fly, Martyn Finney, Bronze in the 50 fly and Sharon Evans finished her exhaustive weekend programme with a 200m IM to bag a Bronze medal.

It’s just 12 months since BCPM members swam their first Midlands championship and proudly wore club swim caps for the first time.  Since then BCPM has expanded to include mixed and male relay teams. Success has followed, but as importantly, club members have had a blast! Onwards!

Gloucester Masters Open – 31 March 2019

Phil Carpenter continued record breaking form by adding the 55-59 yrs, 100 metres men’s freestyle to his Staffs collection. In the same Gloucester meet, last weekend, he lowered his own 50m freestyle mark to 29.32.

Sharon Evans made her debut swim of the year in fine style with a 5.26.23 time to set a county record in the 400m freestyle, 45-49 yr age group.

Lindsey Gowland completed the 10 eligible swims required for decathlon recognition and catapulted to 4th place in the individual National Women’s Top Ten league. With teammates Emma Heathcock, Anne Turner and Kath Tunnicliffe, the Black Country and Potteries squad have achieved a foothold in the National Women’s Team Top Ten placings. It’s still early in the season, retaining a place anywhere in this prestigious top ten is a major target for 2019……come on girls!

Staffordshire Masters & Senior Open – 23 March 2019

Black Country n Potteries swimmers celebrated their clubs first birthday in splendid fashion in Stafford at the Staffs Masters. (23.3.19) Twelve club representatives brought home 34 individual titles, 6 relay victories and set a remarkable 16 new county records!

Noteworthy performances: Phil Carpenter, 55-59, 6 victories, 5 set new county marks.

Newest recruits: Emma Heathcock, 35-39, 4 wins and a new county record, and Tony Ward, 65-69, 4 wins ALL in new county record times, certainly made their presence known.

Martyn Finney 60-64 considered his day ‘poor’ whilst registering 4 firsts with 2 record breaking swims.

Most heroic swim of the day? Richard Woodall, gave his all on the last leg of the 200+ Men’s Medley Relay.

Ladies feeling left out? Don’t … you blasted it to three relay victories, came up with a 1-2-3 in the 35-39 100 free (Anne, Emma, Hannah), and dominated the 100m Breaststroke with 4 individual winners (Justine, Tracy, Lindsey, Kath)

Phil, Sharon, Justine, Lindsey and Kath travel to Gloucester next Sunday……Go team BCPM!