Pople’s pride as Havant shine on national stage

Havant & Waterlooville Swimming Club punched above their weight at Ponds Forge International Centre
Havant & Waterlooville Swimming Club punched above their weight at Ponds Forge International Centre
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Havant & Waterlooville Swimming Club are toasting six of the best after punching above their weight on the national stage.

Graham Pople’s youngsters returned from Sheffield’s Pond Forge International Centre earlier this month with half-a-dozen medals to show for their impressive combined showing at the British and National Summer Championships.

And head coach Pople, who has been at the Waterlooville Leisure Centre-based outfit since the early 1990s, believes the club has never been in a stronger position.

Broken down into two separate competitions, Havant & Waterlooville claimed five of their six-medal haul from the National Summer Championship, with a further medal arriving at the even more prestigious British Summer Championship.

And having taken a record number of swimmers to Sheffield – and arrived home with a record number of medals – Pople had every right to cut a proud figure.

He said: ‘I have coached at the club since it started, and as we have gone through the years this is the most swimmers we have taken to nationals and the most medals we have brought back.

‘We took 17 swimmers to Sheffield and won two gold, three silvers and one bronze.

‘Absolutely, we punched above our weight.

‘Every single day of both championships we were in finals.

‘We were up against big clubs like City of Liverpool, City of Manchester, Aberdeen.

‘People would be asking us where is Havant & Waterlooville?

‘I’d have to say it’s a little village north of Portsmouth!’

Elizabeth Elms (age 16, 200m breaststroke) and Rory Huggins (age 17, 400m individual medley) were the gold-getters for Havant & Waterlooville at nationals, with Huggins also grabbing silver in the 50m freestyle.

And they were joined on the medal roster by Lucy Peers (silver in age 12-13 200m breaststroke) and Katie Byrne (bronze in age 17 400m freestyle).

Fourteen-year-old Luke Pullen proved Havant were also a force to be reckoned with in the British championship, earning 50m backstroke silver and making a further four final appearances.

Pople believes swimming both at his club and in this country is in a good place following the recent success for Team GB at the Rio Olympics.

‘How well we do at Olympic level has an impact on how many kids look to get involved in swimming,’ he added.

‘It’s great that the desire is there and as a club we are really focused on getting the most out of the resources and finances we have.

‘We have just got to keep going and believing in what we are doing.

‘That is the message we deliver to the kids who come here – they can really do this.

‘And on a national stage we came up against massive clubs who will be feeding into Olympic programmes and took them on and stood our own.’