Sutton & Cheam Swimming Club

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Pre-breakfast swims during the 1939-1945 war years at the long-demolished Throwley Road Baths generated the interest in forming a club in Sutton, and Sutton and Cheam Borough Swimming Club came into being on 3rd September 1945 with the 'elders' Committee consisting of:

A.A.Emmett President
Dr E.Kendall Secretary/Treasurer
W.H. "Pop" Worsell Polo Captain/Organiser
Pat Kendall Club Captain

The newly formed club entered its first gala in September 1945 represented by 5 swimmers and it is recorded that 'all 5 gave a creditable performance'.

In December 1945, under the new title of Sutton and Cheam Swimming Club, the club affiliated to the Southern Counties ASA (SCASA) and in February 1946, to the Surrey County Water Polo and Swimming Association (SCWPSA),. Sutton Council then granted the club exclusive use of pool time at the Malden Road Baths (now Cheam Leisure Centre) for the princely sum of 7/6d (371/2 p) per hour.

With enthusiastic young swimmers and a hard working Committee, the new club developed and prospered. Its first important success came in 1947 when Pat Kendall became National Sprint Champion. In the following year, he became the first of a long line of Olympians when selected for the Great Britain team for the London Olympics in 1948. In the same year, the club entered four water polo leagues. In 1949, Gerry Worsell was selected for the Great Britain team for the first time and while playing for Liverpool University v Loughborough in a UAY final was penalised by the referee for "standing" in the deep (10ft 6ins) end of the pool! Gerry, along with Sutton and Cheam teammate Terry Miller, went on to be selected for the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. It is noteworthy that the "Daily Mirror" dubbed Gerry at the time "Mr Beefcake" when he appeared as a male centrefold in the newspaper.

The 1950s continued to witness the rise of the Sutton and Cheam Water Polo team. A capacity, partisan crowd attended Friday and Saturday night matches at the Malden Road pool with the baths resembling Wembley Stadium rather than a suburban swimming pool.

In 1952, Sutton and Cheam played host to the Australian National side touring the UK immediately after the Olympic Games in Helsinki; and with the help of two guest players from the British Olympic Team; Ron Turner and Stan Hawkins, trounced them 9-6 at the Malden Road pool. The team was Maurice Skerman, Reg Potter (1948 Olympic Captain), Stan Hawkins, Bill Smith, Geoff Miller, Terry Miller and Ron Turner.

These successes were highlighted in 1955 when the BBC televised an England v Scotland International Gala and water polo match, from Malden Road pool for their 'Saturday Night Out' programme. Over 1000 spectators packed the Malden Road gallery to capacity and it was estimated the show was broadcast to 11,000,000 viewers.

In the following year, the Australians returned the compliment when Melbourne hosted the 1956 Olympics and some of the players met up again when Sutton and Cheam players Cliff Spooner and Gerry Worsell were selected for the British Team.

It was also in the late 1950s that the name Thurley first became associated with the club with Charlie Thurley playing for the club's highly successful junior water polo team with other stalwarts like John Salter, who still plays with Sutton and Cheam's masters' side.

Surrey Junior Water Polo Team 1958

Winners: ASA & SCASA County Junior Championships

G.A.Worsell (coach) S&C , R.Fearn (S&C) , E.E Alexander, J.Salter (S&C) , E,G.Breed
A.J.Burford (Wimbledon) M.Creamore (S&C), J.Lake (S&C), C.Thurley (S&C), P.Green (S&C)

In 1962, 'Dinkie' Thurley (known affectionately to everyone as 'Mrs T') took over the swimming coaching at Sutton and Cheam and remained so until her death in February 2003. Under her direction, the club flourished and success was immediate as she coached her son John to the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and to Mexico City in 1968. John also won bronze for the butterfly at the Commonwealth Games in 1966 and was the first sub 2 mins GB swimmer in the 200 metres butterfly.

In 1962, the National Water Polo League (NWPL) was actually formed at a meeting held in the home of our former president C.T.Thurley. Since its formation, the club has won the Championship 6 times and has only recently dropped out of the first division.

Another of 'Mrs T's' boys, John Mills (now chief coach at Kingston Royals), represented Great Britain at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal and took a Commonwealth Games silver in the 100m butterfly. Setting the seal on the club's achievements, in 1977 and 1978, John Mills captained the Great Britain Swimming Team and Philip Howden, the Great Britain Water Polo team, a unique double. While Philip captained the GB team, three other Sutton and Cheam Players, Graham Bernard, Paul Cartledge and Pete Paolella were members of the team.

The club's junior water polo team has won the Junior National Championships 8 times and has been runners up on several occasions. In one spell of 7 years, Sutton and Cheam's junior water polo team won the National Championships 5 times and were runners up once. In 1977 and 1979, the Club were Great Britain's representatives in the Europa Cup in Sophia and Zurich respectively.

1980 was a particularly successful year, with Graham Bernard being awarded the Swimming Times Trophy, James Pearson winning the National 16/17 backstroke title and the polo team, under Charlie Thurley's coaching, making a clean sweep of all the National Championship titles.

In 1981, after another year as National Champions, five of the team including Phil Howden, and GB Internationals Chris Harrison and Peter Lang, emigrated to Australia, severely weakening prospects for the next few years. The club's loss was Australia's gain as Chris Harrison changed allegiance to play with the Australian National side in the 1988 Olympic Games; and more recently, Phil's son was selected for the Australian Water Polo team that competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The club still has close ties with its former players and over the past 20 years, we have sent a number of our younger players 'down under' for invaluable experience.

In August 2006, some of our present Masters team (Colin King, Nigel Gornall, Nicky Furneaux and John Salter) met up again with Phil Howden, Stefan Radwanski and Peter Paolella and others to compete in the 10th FINA World Masters Championships in San Marino, Italy (under the banner of 'Brisbane Barracudas'). Many old friendships were renrewed and new ones made. This team, under Phil Howden's captaincy, returned as World Champions in the 50+ age group. In 2008, the team again reformed to compete in the 11th FINA World Masters Championships but lost in the final by a single goal to take the silver medal.

1987 saw Channel 4's "Challenge to Sport" featuring World Superstars Champion and Olympic athlete Brian Hooper training with the Sutton and Cheam water polo team. Following the television feature, the club achieved commercial sponsorship and club colours were changed from the original green and gold to the current red, white and blue to fit the sponsor's logo. However, our 'Old Gits' Water Polo team and our teams competing in National events continue to wear the historic green and gold with pride.

After a few lean years (by their standards), the water polo team recommenced its winning ways again under Charlie Thurley's coaching making a clean sweep of the National Water Polo League, the ASA knockout title and the Deepwater Championships in 1989; the National League for the second year running in 1990, and both the ASA knockout and ASA Junior titles in 1994.

Over the past 40 years, many members, too numerous to mention by name have swum and played for Surrey and the Southern Counties, some have reached National and International standard.

It is the proud record of the club that many of its outstanding successes have been 'home grown', with many of its swimmers and water polo players, including John Thurley, Philip Howden, James Pearson, Matt Kidd and Matt Holland having joined in the 5 - 7 years age group and learning to swim at Sutton and Cheam, going on to achieve the highest honours in their sport.

Many generations of swimmers owe their success to 'Mrs T'. In her latter years, although severely disabled with rheumatoid arthritis, she was rarely absent from the poolside, often coaching from her wheelchair. Just two hours before she died, aged 85, on February 2, 2003, she dictated the week's swimming schedules, continuing to be an inspiration at the club she served so well for 42 years.

Sutton and Cheam Swimming Club's Olympic representatives since the post World War II resumption of the Games have been:

Pat Kendall London 1948 GB Swimming Team
Terry Miller Helsinki 1952 GB Water Polo Team
Gerry Worsell Helsinki 1952 and Melbourne 1956 GB Water Polo Team
Cliff Spooner Melbourne 1956 GB Water Polo Team
John Thurley Tokyo 1964 and Mexico 1968 GB Swimming Team
John Mills Montreal 1976 GB Swimming Team
Matt Kidd Sydney 2000 & Athens 2004 GB Swimming Team
Matt Holland London 2012 GB Water Polo Team

Mention should also be made of Adrian Parker, who did his swim training with the club on his way to a Gold Medal in the Modern Pentathlon at the Montreal Olympics of 1976.

The tradition continues with another of 'Mrs T's' boys, Matthew Kidd, who spent his early years with Sutton and Cheam, becoming triple National Champion with the club and achieving selection for the England Junior team, before moving on to Leatherhead and Auburn University, Alabama, USA. Matthew, made the British team for the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and took a silver medal in the relay in the Commonwealth Games in Manchester 2002, after which he returned to show his silver medal to the swimmers at his former club.

In 2004 Matthew was again selected for the Great Britain Swimming Team for the Athens Olympics, where he competed in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay. Matthew continues to support the club; returning to present the next generation of Suttton & Cheam's swimmers with their awards at the Club's presentation night.

.And so to the present day. Yet another of Mrs T's 'boys', Jim Walker, has recently taken on the role of Chief Swimming Coach and the signs are looking good for continuing success

'Mrs T's' legacy lives on with son Charlie beginning the recent revival of the club's junior water polo fortunes, before handing over the reins to another of her 'boys', David Andrews, himself a former swimmer and junior international water polo player. David has taken the development a stage further and the club now has a thriving junior section with players as young as 8 years learning and enjoying the game. This effort has been rewarded with a number of the players who have come through this programme representing GB at both Senior and Junior Levels.

The latest of these is Matt Holland. Still just 23, Matt has been a member of Sutton & Cheam Swimming Club since the early 1990's, learning to swim and to play water polo at the club.

Initially, Matt was a talented swimmer before turning his attention to water polo. Since then he has accelerated through the ranks with County and Regional representation, before selection as goalkeeper for the GB National Youth and Junior teams.

On the way to his success, Matt has helped the club to numerous League junior titles, and to National Youth and Junior medals. Matt has also been the mainstay of Sutton & Cheam's British Water Polo League (BWPL) side.

Matt is now goalkeeper to the senior national team, and was recently selected as goalkeeper to the GB Men's Water Polo Team for the London 2012 Olympics, becoming the latest in a long line of Sutton and Cheam Olympians.

 

 

   
© Sutton & Cheam Swimming Club, 2015