Organisers at Stradbroke Swim and Fitness Centre say they are still trying to comprehend their team’s “colossal achievement” of ranking as one of the top pools nationwide in a long-running charity swimming initiative.
The record-high group of 191 swimmers representing the Wilby Road facility placed second nationally and first regionally in the annual Swimathon for the Marie Curie Cancer Trust, trumping more than 600 other teams including some in major cities.
Across nine swimming sessions, the group, which was made from participants of all ages and experience levels, took part in 1.5, 2.5 and five-kilometre challenges individually and in groups, with some of the times apparently exceeding even those set during the centre’s historic national first place back in 2004.
Len Phoenix, one of the Stradbroke organisers who was also completing his 26th consecutive Swimathon, told the Diss Express: “We have all been part of an amazing event that has pulled so many of us together.
“We are still pinching ourselves. We are at the top of the pile and it’s absolutely incredible. I don’t think it’s really come home what the group has achieved.
“I think what sums it up is that everyone went away with a Swimathon medal and we heard that some of the kids went to bed still wearing their medals. For me, that says everything.”
The centre highlighted the top performers in the 5k category, with Mark Nowell and Angus Western being the joint fastest male swimmers with times of one hour 17 minutes, while the quickest female swimmer was Julia Green, recording a time of one hour 23 minutes.
Other notable performers included Ella Townsend, the youngest participant at age six, who finished a 1.5k swim, George Tooley, aged 12, who kept the company of older swimmers in the 5k challenge with a time of one hour 27 minutes, and 71-year-old George Knapp, who covered 170 lengths of the pool despite being paralysed from the chest down.
Maria Smith, another of the organisers who completed her 19th consecutive Swimathon, said: “Everyone has been so enthusiastic. People were signing up even on the day because they were witnessing a fantastic atmosphere and they wanted to be a part of it.
“We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who took part. It was an amazing event and everyone had great fun.”
The total amount of money raised by the participants through sponsorships is still being counted, although staff say they believe it will be well into the thousands when it is added up.