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  1. PADS Masters with their bronze medalsI’d had 3 years of lessons when the PADS Masters asked me – an adult novice – to join their team for the Nationals. I was nervous, but it felt like time to see what I’d learned.  

    Our coach Ann and the rest of the Masters made me so welcome; over the summer they made allowances for what I couldn’t do while encouraging me to do things I’d never imagined I could. 

    In October, disaster struck our team and illness took us from 10 swimmers down to the minimum 8. With one month to go, I became obsessed. My family put up with the endless walkthroughs while observing that it made me look like a psychiatric patient drowning. On land.

    Competition day started early on 16th November at K2 in Crawley. The skill shown in the 70-79 year old category was astonishing, and only increased as the age categories came down. By the time we walked out towards the pool edge, my nose was raw from adjusting my noseclip. 

    I’d like to say I swam our ‘Time for Tea’ routine better than ever, but no. Adrenaline might keep you going but it plays havoc with your memory. I messed up parts I’d never messed up; but got others right. I think. I do remember being awestruck by Ellie and Jen’s duet right in front of me. And Beth’s perpetually grinning face reminded me to smile as she whirled past. 

    By the time we raised our teacups at the end, I could only wonder whether I’d make the side.  

    Thanks to the skill of the rest of the team, we came third out of six in our age category – so my first competition appearance was rewarded with a bronze medal. 

    Despite all that, I don’t feel like a Master. I may be the ‘adult swimmer’ that the term describes, but to me, a Master is someone with great experience, expertise and skill. I don’t have much of that yet; but I was really fortunate to be part of a team that was happy to share theirs with me. Thank you all!  

    Julie Gray

    Pictured, the Masters team members who swam at the Nationals - Julie, Amanda, Beth, Ellie, Jen, Karen, Laetitia and Shona.