Paralympic gold medallist and Olympic coach support campaign to keep Deepings Leisure Centre open

A two-time Paralympic gold medallist and two Olympic coaches have given their support to Deepings Swimming Club as it fights for the future of its home pool at Deepings Leisure Centre.

Wednesday, 11th August 2021, 4:57 am
Youngsters competing for Deepings Swimming Club at a recent meeting in Sheffield.

South Kesteven District Council released a statement last week revealing plans to permanently shut the centre, citing the need for “significant repair and remedial work” which would cost £1.2m.

The leisure centre has been at the heart of the Deepings community since opening in 1974 and has been the home of Deepings Swimming Club for the past 45 years.

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Head coach Lynn Chapman.

Former swimmers and coaches have expressed their concern at the council’s decision, which will be discussed at an emergency cabinet meeting on Tuesday (August 17).

Mark Perry, national distance and open water coach for Swimming Canada, started his coaching career at Deepings Swimming Club.

He said: “Leaving the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Village, I am completely in shock to discover that Deepings Leisure Centre is closing with no plan for a replacement.

“Deepings Swimming Club has not only been instrumental in my own coaching career, which has encompassed five Olympic Games, but has developed thousands of young people - not only teaching them an essential life skill, but also providing them with the tools to succeed in life.”

Club swimmers at Deepings Leisure Centre.

David Hemmings, National Centre Coach in Loughborough for British Swimming and coach of Olympians Molly Renshaw, Joe Litchfield, James Wilby and Abbie Wood, added: “Off the back of our best Olympics in swimming, now is the time to encourage development, not lose it. I really pray South Kesteven can save this pool.”

More messages of support came from former Deepings swimmer and double Paralympic Gold medallist Rob Welbourn.

“I am horrified to learn of the prospect of the permanent closure of Deepings Leisure Centre which has the potential for a devastating impact on Deepings Swimming Club. There was a time when my whole life revolved around the club, much as I expect it does for lots of youngsters as well as adults today,” he said.

“The training and competing regime instils discipline, improves confidence, encourages team spirit and healthy competition. It improves fitness and you set targets which you are supported in achieving. When you do achieve there is a sense of wellbeing and of course, success breeds success. You form life-long friendships and acquire life skills which equip you for the opportunities both then and in later years.

“The building blocks which brought me so much success were cemented in place at Deepings Swimming Club.

“I know those who currently swim there have aims and ambitions just like I did, and they dream big dreams just like I did. Please don’t take those dreams from them.”

Deepings Swimming Club has more than 100 members, aged from eight to eighty, and has enjoyed substantial success over its 45-year history, producing a string of national and international swimmers. Most recently, two swimmers, Alex Wray and Isabel Spiney, represented Great Britain at the European Junior Championships.

In addition to the swimming club, the leisure centre is also home to Leisure SK’s second largest swim school, which teaches around 600 youngsters.

The pool is also used by the town’s four primary schools and one secondary school, underlining the vital role it plays in the local community. The leisure centre also has around 600 fitness members.

A petition to save the leisure centre has been launched by local independent councillors and surpassed 4,000 signatories within its first 48 hours.

A Facebook page called ‘Save the Deepings Leisure Centre’ has also been set up giving members of the local population an opportunity to register their opposition to the planned closure.

Meanwhile, the swimming club says its Facebook and Twitter posts have been inundated with support from the swimming community, including retweets from Olympic medallist and presenter Sharron Davies MBE, Northampton Swimming Club director ofSwimming Andy Sharp and Lincolnshire ASA, plus messages from a host of local and regional swimming clubs.

And Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson MBE, in referring to the tweets, said the threat of pool closure, which is affecting many clubs nationwide, is an issue she will look into.

Deepings Swimming Club chairman Andy Cardell expressed disappointment with the council’s announcement but vowed that the swimming club would do all it could to overturn the decision and save not only the home of Deepings Swimming Club but also an essential focal point for the wider community.

“The swimming club has played a central role in the lives of hundreds of children and adults over its 45-year history and continues to be at the heart of the local community,” he said. “At a time when British Swimming has just enjoyed its most successful ever Olympics, clubs like Deepings are providing the foundations for the next generation of swimmers.

“Swimming is an amazing sport that helps children to develop, gives them skills they can use throughout their adult lives and improves their mental health and wellbeing. This is particularly important as we emerge from three Covid lockdowns.

“The club survived during Covid thanks to the support of its members, parents and the committee. It is essential that we now keep Deepings Leisure Centre open to protect the future of our beloved swimming club.”

With members due to return to training from August 16, the swimming club committee is in talks with other local pool operators as a short-term solution with a view to seeking a new permanent home if South Kesteven District Council does not reverse its decision.