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Swim Wales celebrate upcoming 125th Anniversary & National Sport Heritage Day

Nofio, Plymio, Nofio Artistig, Polo Dŵr, Addysg
National, Performance

When Matt Richards and Callum Jarvis won gold for Great Britain at the Olympic Games this summer, they were adding to a firm thread of swimming excellence in Wales that dates all the way back to 1908.

That was the year, Paolo Radmilovic  - “Raddy” as he was known – became the first Welsh athlete, in any sport, to win an Olympic gold medal. He went on to win three more.

But the history of organised swimming in Wales goes back even further than Raddy, all the way to 1897 and the formation of the Welsh Amateur Swimming Association.

For that reason, Swim Wales is proudly waving the flag for our sport today, on National Sporting Heritage Day, as we start the countdown to our 125th anniversary next year.

It’s not just time to celebrate Raddy, Irene Steer – the first Welsh woman to win an Olympic gold – or those who came after such as Valerie Davies, John Brockway, Martyn Woodroffe, Robert Morgan, David Roberts, Jemma Lowe, Jazz Carlin, Ellie Simmonds, David Davies and others.

Alongside nurturing the competitive end of the sport, swimming, diving and water polo have played a fundamental role in the health and well-being of the Welsh nation.

Up to 400,000 people in Wales counted themselves as swimmers before the pandemic and when lockdown came, and pools around the country were forced to close, tens of thousands took to open water swimming and enjoyed the special thrill of an early morning or late evening dip in rivers, lakes and seas.

Now that pools have re-opened, Swim Wales is pushing hard to restore capacity that so swimmers young and old, across Wales, can gain the benefits that generations have enjoyed before them.

So, join us today and celebrate what swimming in Wales has to offer by reflecting on what the sport has given us in the past.

You might swim at school, or through a club, or just be someone who loves to get in the water when the mood takes you.

We’re celebrating the millions of Welsh swimmers who have gone before – from Olympians to national squad swimmers, to academy prospects, to club members up and down the country and, in fact, everyone and anyone who loves to swim.

National Sporting Heritage Day is an annual event, held on September 30, that aims to raise awareness about sporting heritage in the UK, including the history of certain sports and significant past achievements.

Each year the day has a different theme. This year's theme is: ‘Inspire, Share and Celebrate’. 

The focus is on inter-generational activities and learning and conversations between generations will be encouraged so that children and young people can learn from the sporting pioneers that came before them.

The day is designed to be inspirational and aspirational and it aims to inspire and motivate children and adults to learn more about sports and sporting heritage. Try getting involved this year!

Post your pictures on our social media channels of swimming from your family.

It could be you in the sea or in a pool. If you’ve won a medal or a certificate at a Swim Wales event then show it to us.

What is the oldest swimming medal we can find?

Swim Wales will celebrate that 125th birthday next year. That will be a massive celebration for one of Wales’ biggest sports.

Let us know how you think we should celebrate this great milestone.

Talking of heritage, if you’re wondering what happened to Raddy, he moved to Weston-super-Mare to play for their water polo team and lived for much of his life on that side of the Bristol Channel.

He became a legendary figure in the town, running several bars and hotels there.

There is a bar named after him on the seafront, Raddy’s, and there is also a Blue Plaque at the Imperial Hotel, on South Parade, one of the hotels he ran and at which he displayed many of his trophies.

Sadly, his Olympic medals have gone missing. We’re always on the lookout.

If you happen to come across them, let us know!

In the meantime, if you want to see Irene Steer’s 1912 Olympic gold medal and swimsuit, and other swimming medals, head to St. Fagan’s for the Wales Is …Olympics exhibition.