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History – Swimming

Below is a brief history of Swimming at Loughborough.  However, as we are trying to develop a more detailed account it would be great if you could send any photographs, facts, stories etc. that you may have to  Thanks.

The beginnings of Loughborough University Swimming go back to 1926 when work began on the open air swimming pool and then later in 1939 with the building of the new Sports Hall, which included the state of the art swimming pool.   With its under-water viewing windows this 25 yard, 4 lane pool was well ahead of its time.

The progression to being the centre of an elite swimming squad began with the appointment of Bert Kinnear.  Bert Kinnear had himself graduated from Loughborough College in 1943 and in 1948 joined the British Swim Team.  He returned to Loughborough in 1949 as a Lecturer in Physical Education and became the first Performance Director of Swimming.  During the 1950s Bert Kinnear transformed swimming coaching by shifting the emphasis from ‘style’ to ‘conditioning’ and in 1955 he was on the panel that designed the new coaching certificate for the Amateur Swimming Association. In the early years of swimming at Loughborough, coaching was mainly carried out by the students with help, particularly in the water polo, from Tom Sketchley.  Colin Hardy recalls how Tom was a well-known local personality whose bookshop was frequented by students.

In 1959 Bert Kinnear left Loughborough to take up the role as National Technical Officer with the ASA and, in essence, became the British Head Coach.  In 1960 in Rome and later in 1964 in Tokyo he was appointed Olympic Swimming Chief Coach, a role also occupied by other Loughborough personnel namely: Hammy Bland in Mexico (1968) and Munich (1972) and Rick Bailey in Los Angeles (1984).

However, it was not just in terms of coaching that Loughborough name became synonymous with International success.  As early as the 1950s and 1960s a large number of students were selected for National representation both on swimming and water polo squads. In terms of University swimming Loughborough student’s men won their first swimming UAU title in 1954 and the women in 1978 and this success has continued in BUSA and BUCS competition until the present day.

Outside of performance swimming, students who have swum at Loughborough in the past will have fond memories of the early swimming pools.  Again, recalling Colin Hardy’s brief history of Loughborough Swimming, such memories will include Dickie Underwood demonstrating a jump into shallow water from the balcony of the Sports Hall Pool, John Atha showing his classes how to do the underwater dolphin movement and Bert Kinnear having diving competitions with students on the what later became ‘banned’ diving boards, because of the relatively shallow depth of the water in the deep end.  Other memories will include jumping from the 5 metre board during the ‘survival’ lesson and getting stuck climbing a rope ladder to the 5 metre board at the end of their survival swim. A 5 minute test swim was an assessment used for many years and again as Colin notes the practical assessments ‘were very traditional affairs with staff appearing in ‘white’ for the day and all students demonstrating every aspect of the swimming programme. A personal memory is the tradition of being thrown into the pool by the students at the end of the assessments!

In 1970 Norman Sarsfield became the first full time secretary of the ASA and moved the organisation and his family to Loughborough.  As a friend and supporter of Loughborough University Swimming, this support, together with Bert Kinnear’s innovations, led the way for continued success of Loughborough Swimming.  Under the leadership of Performance Directors such as Colin Hardy, Mike Peyrebrune and Ian Armiger, Loughborough Swimming has gone from strength to strength.

The Sports Hall pool and the outdoor pool have now been replaced by a 50 metre training and research pool which was opened in 2002.  As a result, today, Loughborough University is an Intensive Training Centre for British Swimming and Loughborough Swimmers continue to achieve fantastic results on both the domestic and world stage.  In total 14 swimmers from Loughborough were selected for the London Olympic and Paralympic teams in 2012 and under the guidance of new leadership, success for Loughborough Swimming looks set to continue in the future.