BANGOR pool was quiet yesterday, a far cry from my memories of the buzz of excitement and screaming teenage swimmers as I and others swam until our lungs were bursting, writes Rebecca Black.
I swam for Ards Swimming Club, for whom – like in most sports – Bangor was the arch-rival. This rivalry was at its most dramatic during relay races at the scores of swimming galas that took place each year.
Bangor and Ards were among the top clubs in the Province, producing scores of international swimmers.
The strong smell of chlorine walking through the doors of Bangor swimming pool yesterday brought it all back, as well as the familiar nervous butterflies in the pit of my stomach I used to get before competing.
Training every morning at 6am before school, swimming was my life for most of my teenage years, and Bangor was one of the many pools where I spent my weekends competing in this fiercely competitive sport.
Bangor may not have been the fastest pool in Northern Ireland – that was undoubtedly the former Grove Baths – but it played a vitally important role for generations of developing swimmers.
Unlike the rest of the UK, we had no 50m pools in Northern Ireland and had to travel to be able to train in an Olympic-length pool which was so vital for anyone serious about competing internationally. Back when I was a teenager the Ulster schools organisation was forced to take the most promising swimmers to places like the Canary Islands.
Our most talented swimmers, such as Olympian Andrew Bree of Ards Swimming Club, were forced to base themselves abroad to give themselves the best chance. I am delighted that young swimmers coming up through the ranks now finally have the resources to compete at the highest level.