My wife, Sue, and I have been in Sydney for six weeks.
We were fortunate to be able to stay in an apartment at Coogee close to Wylie’s Baths.
We tried to swim each day. At the start, the water temperature was 17 degrees and by the end it was moving close to 20.
I am fascinated by the history of Wylie’s Baths. I have always been a Field of Dreams person so was delighted to learn about Wilhelmina (Mina) Wylie.
As I was trying to persuade myself that the water was really warm, I thought about how good it was to be swimming in the pool used by one of the first two Australian female Olympic swimmers. Mina and her friend Fanny Durack went to the1912 Games in Stockholm. Fanny won the gold medal and Mina the silver in the first 100 metres race for women. They swam in a pool built in an inlet of Stockholm Harbour that must have seemed like home to Mina and Fanny.
In my Pool of Dreams moments at Wylie’s, I remembered my start in swimming at the Buckley Baths in the 1950s under the watchful eye of Latham Catherall (who was present when the Baths opened in 1928). I joined the water polo team in 1962 after a remarkable decade of success for the team.
I thought too about Colin Hardy, my swimming lecturer at Loughborough College in 1974-75. In a tribute to him, Di Bass wrote:
Colin was a great all round sports person but his love was for swimming. A day would not go by without his morning swim, even on holiday, so I am told, he would seek out the nearest pool. I can remember on several occasions over the Christmas Vacations having an early morning dip in the freezing water of the 1930’s Sports Hall Pool on Boxing Day (officially closed for the holiday), along with others from his Masters Group. To be a member of the Masters Group was something to be proud of. It consisted of members of staff, of varying ability but with a love for swimming. Mind you, if you complained about the training session – always 2000 yards in length – then you were informed by Colin, in no uncertain terms, that no-one made you come! During these sessions such ‘modern’ innovations as tumble turns were treated as ‘technique abuse’ but Colin’s gentle encouragement and enthusiasm made these sessions (always followed by coffee in the Martin Hall) thoroughly enjoyable, not to be missed, and part of the Loughborough day for those involved.
My memory of him is of a charismatic teacher who made swimming a delight. His preparation and attention to detail set a standard for me to which I aspired throughout my teaching career. He taught me how to observe technique and to do so with confidence.
As I tried to improve my trickle breathing at Wylie’s I thought about Mina, Latham and Colin. I did not try any tumble turns … just in case.
But I did think about long-term learning outcomes. Like thousands of swimmers before and after me, I have had over fifty years of benefit from Latham’s insights and nearly forty years of trying to establish and develop Colin’s pedagogy.
I wonder how both of them would have enjoyed coaching Mina.