Prior to its inception as the Welsh ASA in 1897, swimming was largely confined to a few clubs in the south of the country such as Penarth SC but its formation ‘to promote and encourage the participation of Aquatic Sport in Wales’ acted as a stimulus to its development initially in competitive swimming and water polo throughout the country despite the initial limitation of aquatic facilities.
Over the years diving, synchronised (now artistic swimming), age -group swimming, para-swimming , Open Water swimming /marathon swimming and competitive masters events have expanded the role of the Welsh ASA together with ‘learn to swim’ campaigns and its health educational role.
Within a few years of its formation one of the greatest legends in Welsh sport emerged in the form of Paulo Radmilovic who was born in Cardiff. His exploits over an amazing 24-year plus career would take in five Olympic Games and result in him winning three Olympic gold medals at water polo in 1908 1912 and 1920 and a GB relay gold member in 1908. Not surprisingly he was the first British swimmer to be honoured by the International Swimming Hall of Fame and it Wales’s most successful Olympian of all time.
Irene Steer was another notable being a member of the British women’s relay team that won the gold medal in 1912 when women’s swimming events made their Olympic debut.
Since that time Welsh swimmers such as Elizabeth Davies, Martyn Woodroffe , David Davies and Jazz Carlin have won several Olympic medals between them and at the 2020/1 Tokyo Olympics provided 6 members -a record number for the principality (and in excess of what would be expected from its relative population density) – of the GB swim that went on to become the most successful GB Olympic team of all time. Wales contributed two gold medals to the 2020 GB total in Tokyo with Calum Jarvis being a heat hero of the Mens 4 x 200m freestyle relay, with an 18-year-old Matt Richards following up with a blistering third leg.
Wales has competed in the Commonwealth (Empire) Games as an individual nation since its inception in 1930 at Hamilton in Ontario, Canada. In 1958 it hosted the event utilising the new and iconic Empire Games Pool in Cardiff for the swimming and diving and is only one of eight nations to be represented at every Games and has enjoyed considerable success with several swimming gold medallists over the years.
The recent progression of competitive swimming in Wales aided by superb facilities at Swansea and Cardiff, brilliant coaches and after record breaking Olympics in Rio 2016 and 2020/1 anticipates another great performance at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham 2022 as the organisation celebrates 125 years of existence and its notable achievements.