Thursday, November 30, 2017

St Andrew’s Day: Scotland’s greatest swimming triumphs

As Scotland celebrates St Andrew’s Day, we’re looking back at some of the historic sporting highs our country has produced in the pool. We’ve seen success in Commonwealth and Olympic Games on home soil and afar, as part of Team Scotland and as part of Team GB.

Here’s our magnificent seven of memorable moments: what are yours?

'And it's Wilkie!' David Wilkie claims Gold medal in Montreal

David Wilkie announced himself on the swimming scene with a marvellous swim to a 200m Breaststroke Bronze medal on home soil as a 16-year-old at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, six years prior to his Olympic Gold conquest.

Wilkie arrived at the Montreal Olympics in 1976 hoping to beat his rival, the American John Hencken, who had set a world record four years before in his defeat of the Scotsman in Munich. Wilkie also arrived intent on shrugging a reputation that he apparently shied away from hard work.

Wilkie had upped his training intensity in the years after Munich, moving to the US to work with the University of Miami's swimming team, the Miami Hurricanes. This commitment paid off and on July 24 Wilkie made history (as did the BBC commentator!), setting a world-record time of 2:15:11 on his way to Britain's first swimming Gold medal since 1960.

In the process, Wilkie prevented an American sweep of the men's Swimming Gold medals as our Atlantic neighbours dominated proceedings in the pool. He also added a 100-metre silver medal to his collection. Wilkie's world record for the 200m Breaststroke would remain unbroken for six years, but his crowning moment remains strong in Scottish sporting history and Wilkie remains one of Britain's finest ever swimmers.

Sir Peter Heatly claims his golden hat-trick

Peter -heatly -pa

The man known as Scotland's Mr Diving for decades had his finest moment in Cardiff in 1958 in the Commonwealth and Empire Games (as they were then known). From the edge of the 10m highboard (platform), Heatly dived into the Wales Empire Pool and landed with a score of 147.79 to beat Englishman Brian Phelps.

In truth, any of Sir Heatly's appearances at the Commonwealth Games could have merited inclusion (a Gold-Silver double in Auckland and a Gold-Bronze brace in Vancouver) but his victory in Cardiff cemente his legacy as a dominant force in diving. 

Ross Murdoch wins Gold in Glasgow with Michael Jamieson close behind

Ross And Michael

Glasgow 2014 was full of amazing sporting moments (both in the pool and out) but without doubt one of the best was the moment Ross Murdoch touched home to claim Gold after a shootout against compatriots Michael Jamieson and Calum Tait in the 200m Breaststroke final.

Murdoch came into the competition as an underdog, not widely known outside of the Scottish community within swimming. But this race in his home city was beamed into the public's living rooms and put Murdoch at the forefront of the national spotlight. It's a pivotal moment he will always reflect on fondly, no matter what heights he achieves in his fledgling career.

Murdoch will take to the Tollcross International Swimming Centre again in the summer of 2018 at the inaugral European Championships, held in Glasgow.

Hannah Miley swims her heart out - and we take her to ours

Hannah Miley (Saturday Pm ) 34

With a career that's collected over 40 medals, it's hard to pick out one achievement from Hannah Miley's stellar resume. But the defining moment when she became the darling of Scottish swimming was when she touched home in the 400m Individual Medley at the New Delhi at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The then 21-year-old set a Commonwealth Games record of 4:38.83 on her way to claiming Gold ahead of an impressive field that included England's Keri-Anne Payne and Aimee Wilmott and Australian Samantha Hammill.

Grace Reid wins Silver at the Worlds with Tom Daley

Grace Reid

Grace Reid was already making history despite her young age, gaining Team GB an extra quota place for Rio 2016 following her impressive display at the 2016 FINA Diving World Cup. At the Olympics she made the final of the 3m Springboard and finished 8th, comfortably in the top ten.

But her partnership with Tom Daley would take her to new heights and their potential for success was realised in Budapest. Reid and Daley were beaten only by the Chinese pairing, claiming Silver ahead of nations like Canada, Germany, Australia, USA and Russia.

Duncan Scott and Stephen Milne win world title as part of Team GB relay team

Relay _4x 200m _free _gold -1200px

The defining moment of the 2017 FINA World Championships? Perhaps the punch into the air of joy from the British Men's 4x100m Freestyle squad after taking an all-comers and winning, breaking a national record in the process. The team of Duncan Scott, Stephen Milne, James Guy and Nicholas Grainger touched home almost a second before Russia, with the heavily-favoured US team in third and Australia, the fastest qualifiers, behind in fifth.

Jim Anderson wins four Golds in Athens

Jim Anderson

Jim Anderson made the home of the Olympics his own in 2004, swimming his way to four Gold Medals at the Athens Paralympics. Born with cerebal palsy, Anderson enjoyed a long and successful career - over 20 years, retiring after London 2012 - but the highlight was in Greece where he won the 50m, 100m and 200m Freestyle races and thye 50m Backstroke event. His momentous efforts led to him being honured with the BBC Scotland Sports Personality of the Year award that year.

So those are seven of our best sporting successes in the pool, is one of them your most memorable? Or does something else top these?

Happy St Andrew's Day!