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Updated: Jun 30

What do Olympic Gold and Bronze medal winner Duncan Goodhew, Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, and Captain Matthew Webb, the first person to swim the English Channel, have in common? No, it’s not swimming the English Channel. All three have received Royal Humane Society Awards for acts of bravery in the saving of human life and for the restoration of life by resuscitation. Duncan Goodhew is much more than a brave and noble soul. He a life-long swimmer and champion of swimming in more ways than one. He won Olympic Gold and Bronze in the 100 meters breaststroke and 100 meter medley relay respectively, in the Moscow 1980 Olympics. He has promoted swimming at all levels ever since.

He is President of Swimathon, the swimming charity that has raised more than 52 million pounds since it was founded in 1997. This charity brings together swimmers of all ages and abilities with two simple aims: to spread the joys and benefits of swimming whilst raising money for some of the UK’s most needful charity work. It continues to grow, with Open Water Swimmathon in 2017, taking the very successful Swimathon Challenge (the largest event of its kind in the world) beyond the poll and into open water. He was awarded the Humane Award for administering life-saving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to Lord Sheldon – he learned CPR as an adolescent, with the Learn to Swim Programme. I strongly believe that swimming teaches you many skills for life, beyond swimming. The Learn to Swim Programme also teaches you skills to save other people’s lives. I can go on with Duncan Goodhew’s achievements, and I will. He is one of the founding trustees of what is now SportsAid, a charity which enriches the lives of talented young athletes by recognising and nurturing their abilities through and beyond sport. He was awarded MBE in 1983 for services to sport. Ever since he struck gold and bronze in Moscow he has been very keen to give back. After all, swimming saved him, gave him direction, from being a wayward and headstrong teenager, to being a champion in every sense of the word, across his adult life.

In this podcast we talk about those early years, about his achievements, and about the important and good work he has done ever since. We talk about music too – about how Gorillaz was not good music to swim to, by Sky’s ‘Toccata’ is – turbo-charged Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fugue’ for those of you who don’t know it. It kind-of confirms my prejudice that Bach is good for all reasons and seasons.

He was involved in giving evidence to a UK Government House of Commons Report in 2001 on ‘The State of Swimming’ in the UK. The remit of this was three-fold. To consider the state of the UK’s historic swimming pools, and the problems affecting these listed buildings; to examine the availability of swimming facilities to communities; and to consider facilities and training support available for competitive swimmers. He said in the report that "Swimming is the best all round sport for our health. It is the least discriminating, certainly in age and ability and it has the highest appeal in the nation. Some honourable Member here mentioned that we cannot afford to do it. Well, we are not a third rate country, we are not a third world country, we are the third largest economy in the world and we darn well should afford it." We talk about this and about what has happened for swimming in the UK in the two decades since then, and about what he thinks should happen into the future.

Beyond promoting, championing swimming, Duncan continues to be a very keen swimmer. For him, swimming is spiritual, zen, magnetic, a total assault on the senses. A one-swim day for him is a good day, a two-swim day is a great day. We are fortunate in the UK to have such an active, articulate and passionate-about-swimming champion of this sport. It has been a privilege to engage in this podcast conversation about things that he deeply cares for; I hope you enjoy it and can share some of his passion for swimming.

Listen to the podcast here

Read the 2001 UK Government House of Commons Report on The State of Swimming

swimming - house of commons report 2001
Download PDF • 421KB

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