Adlington Bemoans “Sad” News Ponds Forge Will Remain Closed For The Foreseeable Future

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Ponds Forge - Photo Courtesy: Josh Dobson

Double Olympic champion Becky Adlington has described as “awful” the news that Ponds Forge will remain closed indefinitely.

Max Litchfield, the double European IM medallist who trained there between leaving Doncaster DARTES and moving to Loughborough, said it was “devastating news”.

So too Leon Taylor, who was based there for several years, winning 10m synchro silver with Pete Waterfield at Athens 2004.

Jo Jackson, Liam Tancock and Karoly Guttler are among swimmers to have set world records at the pool in Sheffield, Yorkshire, which has also played host to Olympic and world trials, the City of Sheffield and Sheffield City clubs, diving competitions encompassing elite to grassroots and numerous learn-to-swim and community programmes.

Masters clubs. County championships. Aquarobics. Age groups. Young and old. The venue has hosted them all.

Franziska Van Almsick

It staged the 1993 European Championships where 15-year-old Franziska van Almsick won seven medals – six of them gold – and Kristina Egerszegi mesmerised en-route to four titles, all in individual events.

Guttler lowered the 100m breaststroke world record to 1:00.95 while Alex Popov won four golds, including the 50 and 100 free double.

Sprint freestyle specialist Mark Foster was among five men to set global standards at the continental short-course showpiece in 1998, with 21.31 in the 50 free.

Two world records were set by women including Sandra Volker‘s 27.27 in the 50 back.

Tancock stopped the clock at 24.47 in the 50 back at the 2008 Olympic trials a year before Jackson lowered Federica Pellegrini’s 400 free standard to 4:00.66.

Liam Tancock: Photo Courtesy: Kyle Terada – USA Today Sports

It stands minutes away from the Wybourn estate where British head coach and guide to Adlington, Bill Furniss grew up.

It is impossible to mention everything to which the pool bore witness. Dreams realised and dashed, the highs and lows of sport, the momentary shudder of the cold water after diving in. The heat in the stands.

But on Wednesday it was announced that the venue would remain closed for the foreseeable future with 300 jobs at risk across the Sheffield City Trust which manages 13 fitness and leisure venues across the city region.

Adlington, who qualified there for her first Olympics in 2008 before going on to win double gold in Beijing, posted on social media:

“This is so sad!!!! I have a lifetime of memories from that pool. Awful for all the athletes and staff that train there. It’s such a huge part of the swimming community.”

Litchfield, who trained there as did younger brother Joe while the pair were at Sheffield Hallam University, added:

Jane Nickerson, CEO of Swim England, released a statement which read:

“The announcement that the Ponds Forge International Sports Centre is to remain shut indefinitely is a bitter blow to so many.

“We are aware there were significant issues with the venue and the pandemic has exacerbated these.

“It’s devastating for the swimming, diving and water polo clubs based there, for the staff who work there, for the generation of youngsters who would have learned how to swim there – and for the thousands who have enjoyed taking part in our national events and other major international competitions over the years.

“For our diving community, the situation looks frustratingly dire.

“Ponds Forge is one of a very small number of bespoke diving facilities in England and was home to our National Junior Diving Championships and we are now looking to re-home the Sheffield vibrant diving community as well as our water polo and swimming clubs.”

Swim England

Photo Courtesy: Swim England

She added:

“It’s not the only diving venue to remain closed though. Only eight of our 35 affiliated diving clubs currently have access to the water.

“Statistics such as this make for depressing reading and will leave many fearful about the future of our sports – but we’re continuing to campaign for emergency funding for this vital sector.

“We fought hard publicly on our campaign to #OpenOurPools and #SaveLeisure.

“Since then we have been continuing to work hard behind the scenes and remain vigorous in our lobbying of the Government to help out our struggling facilities where the need for financial support is needed more urgently than ever.

“Some pools have reopened their doors since they were given the green light to do so by the Government on Saturday 25 July.

“However, a large majority of local authority owned facilities will still remain closed at the beginning of September and beyond.

“This sector provides a much needed social benefit service to many communities as well as providing the opportunity for many to realise their aquatic sporting dreams.”

 


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8 comments

  1. Jean King

    Sad news many happy memories of daughters swimming in British champs here every summer

  2. Jean-Marc Soulas

    LAC has better facilities and happens to be located in the UK capital city. There are hotels nearby and your favourite Sheffield restaurants, eg Wagamama, and more are all within walking distance at the Westfield Centre.

    • Jan Daly

      Closer for me to travel from the west country

    • Jean King

      Jean-Marc Soulas hotels are 3 times the price

    • Gina Heyn

      Jean King I agree. The hotels are 3 times the price and so is the pool hire. I’m from London but prefer going to Sheffield to race as you can walk everywhere and it is so much cheaper. Also I don’t think the LAC can be set up as 2 x 25m pools like Ponds Forge can be so that limits the type of meet you can have there.

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