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Sport

Swimming’s own Santa Claus

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By Jonathan Twigg

IN any sport there are individuals who age like a fine wine and mature from the grape to become, over time, someone who is a respected and admired product, whom many strive to become.

One such full bodied person would be Carmarthen Swimming Club’s John Towle, hailing from Coventry in the West Midlands but now firmly ensconced in the landscape of West Wales sport.

John and his wife Hazel moved to Newcastle Emlyn in 2013 having lived in Bedworth for 32 years, with their two sons Adam, now living in London and Neil who is still residing in the Midlands at Hockley Heath, where John regularly returns for family time and to mix with old swimming friends at galas.

John started swimming in the 1960’s as a teenager at one of the three Coventry Clubs, where the current 50 meter pool stands today in the City Centre. But back in those days 33 yards was a more than a suffice distance for swimmers to train.

As, in all walks of life, choices had to be made when he was growing up and John followed a route into Scouting meaning swimming subconsciously took a backward step for 35 years.

His enthusiasm for Scouting prevailed from being a Senior Scout and gaining the Queen Scout Award, then the next 30 years as a Scout leader, progressing, eventually, to Assistant County Commissioner for Leader Training along with several years of assisting Leader Training course at Gilwell Park in London.

This role entailed him planning and delivering the training programme for all leaders whilst remaining at the forefront of nurturing young people to ‘be the best they can be’.

Eventually the lure of the swimming pool returned as John took his own children to Bedworth Otters Swimming Club. “As a parent I spent hours sitting and watching my two boys swim, so when an invitation was given to train as a technical official I accepted, and the rest is history.”

John committed the same enthusiasm he showed for scouting onto the pool deck and as time passed so swimming took over as his passion where the ‘boredom of sitting and watching the sport now sees him as one of Swim Wales most important cogs’.

His children have moved on from the sport, but John had found his calling and remained actively involved on the pool deck, qualifying as a Referee in 2004.

As part of Nuneaton and Bedworth Swimming Club (they merged late 1990s) he first got involved in training new officials to the sport at the Club, before moving to Coventry Swimming Club, taking responsibility for all their official’s training programme.

This led to an appointment to training officials across the Midlands region, particularly ‘young officials’ which he held until he moved to Wales four and a half years ago.

Short in stature he may be but John makes up for this through a well-spoken dialect, certainly a revered asset when communicating on the pool deck.  John is a man who listens, connects and reasons before speaking, which instantly earns him the respect he deserves, in many avenues of life, swimming being just one of them.

He is an active soul, despite his advancing years and the fact he has survived two cardiac infarctions, the second of which now sees him with a refitted heart. He enjoys walking, “primarily with a golf stick for support” he chuckles “and I’m also hands on at present in a major renovation of my garden, weather dependent of course.”

Both he and his wife have embraced life in Newcastle Emlyn, where he is supportive of his wife’s Chairmanship of the U3A, whilst John takes responsibility for producing the monthly newsletter.

He is also a keen clay pigeon shooter, “but like my golf it is dictated by time, weather and other commitments” he smiles ruefully. “Thankfully I get to play snooker on a more regular basis and enjoy the Sunday quiz nights in the local pub where my broad shoulders come to the fore in supporting the teams above us.”

Moving to Wales didn’t end his association with swimming; when he relocated he identified Carmarthen Swimming Club as the ‘right’ club, explaining “naturally I applied for membership and I am currently active in training club officials once again after some persuasion from Denise Conlon”!  John is committed to supporting the Club events, Urdd galas, Regional and Swim Wales national events and often finds himself away from home for nights on end.

“I do get tired, but swimming is a family, and everyone is supportive of each other. Those times away from the pool deck are enjoyable and friendships forged which for me have lasted a lifetime”.

John came through the sport and was on the pool deck along with British greats like Olympic British Paralympian swimmer Ellie Symonds, Olympic, European and Commonwealth breast stroke medallist swimmer Adam Whitehead and Olympic, European and Commonwealth back stroke competitor swimmer Jo Deakin.

“Swimming is a very technical sport, where the officials are present to see fair play for the competitors in a sport where the dedication to training can see them spending 16+ hours a week in the pool.

“Technology advancements have helped officials enormously but we had to embrace them as they were introduced.”

Due to his involvement at British National galas John’s experience meant he cascaded the information and technology through the ranks, although he still enjoys the ‘old school’ technique of pen, paper and a stop watch.

The future is one based on tomorrows for John. “My calendar each year is planned meticulously, with swimming taking a primary spot as I enjoy retirement from being a Technical Illustrator and Exhibition’s Project Manager. Evenings spent with fellow swimming officials are a time to relax, reflect and reminisce’ he says with a smile, and enjoying his favourite tipple, a glass of red wine.

He has had offers for key job roles as a double for Santa Claus, notably in the lead up to Christmas “but I turn them down as it’s also a busy month for swimming!” Perhaps then not a humbug as John is a living tribute to the sport of swimming.

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Sport

Hendy hit back in second half

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HENDY secured their fourth win of the season on Saturday (Oct 13) as they beat second placed Gowerton 26-15 after a fine second half.

The win moves Hendy up to third and they now sit just a point behind Gowerton.

Hendy’s Rhydian Morris got the home side on the board with a try but he couldn’t add the conversion.

Morris did add a penalty but Gowerton hit back with a converted try and a penalty to lead 10-8 at the break.

Hendy stepped up in the second half and Jake Newman put Hendy back in front with a good try.

Steffan Howells then grabbed Hendy’s third while Morris was successful with one of his three conversion attempts.

Morris also added two further penalties to all but seal the win for the home side.

Gowerton hit back with a late try but it wasn’t enough to affect the outcome of the game and Hendy saw it out.

On Saturday (Oct 20), Hendy are away as they take on fourth placed Llanelli Wanderers in what promises to be an exciting game.

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Sport

Scarlets beaten at the death

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A LAST gasp penalty try for last season’s Heineken Champions Cup finalists Racing 92 condemned Scarlets to a single point defeat in their opening game of this season’s competition.

Storm Callum played his part in the pre-match preparations with rain and gale force winds keeping people away from the Parc.

The Scarlets, unaffected by the storm, prepared for an opening titanic clash against the French side.

The home side got the first points on the board after Racing were penalised on a couple of occasions leading to a penalty for Leigh Halfpenny to send through the posts.

Photo by Darren Harries

Racing then began to put pressure on the Scarlets and Finn Russell thought he had scored but play had been called back for a knock on.

Scarlets then came close to scoring a try but a knock on gave possession back to the visitors who then went back on the attack.

The home side lost concentration and that allowed flanker Baptiste Chouzenoux to run in for a try under the posts and Russell then added the extras.

That gave the French side a 3-7 lead at the break but the Scarlets came out for the second half determined to get back into the lead.

Ten minutes in they had a scrum close to the line and it was Gareth Davies who picked the ball before spotting a gap and going through to score. Halfpenny’s conversion was only inches away but Scarlets led 8-7.

Moments later Scarlets were back on the attack and after working through the phases the ball came to Jonathan Davies who kicked ahead for Johnny McNicholl to run onto and touch down. Again the conversion was missed.

The French side looked to respond but some good defending from saw them clear the ball downfield which Steff Evans did his best to retrieve.

Racing were penalised for not rolling away but Scarlets conceded possession with a knock on and the visitors came forward once more.

Scarlets defended well initially but referee Matthew Carley spotted an infringement and went under the posts for a penalty try and also sending Gareth Davies to the sin bin.

The home side had little time to respond and although they went upfield they were unable to add to the score.

Scarlets will be disappointed to have suffered defeat and will need to pick themselves up for Friday’s (Oct 19) game, also in the Heineken Cup, this time away to Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.

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Sport

Reds made to pay for missed chances

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A WET and windy evening (Fri, Oct 12) at Stebonheath ended in yet another loss for the Reds who have now accumulated just a measly point from their five home games to date.

But yet again, as has been the case in earlier matches, they could and should have wrapped up matters prior to the break, but failure to convert a number of gilt-edged chances cost them dearly in the long run.

James Loveridge was the main culprit by failing to  finish off a number of moves when through on goal, and these misses were to prove crucial when the visitors struck twice in the second half after being comprehensively outplayed in the first.

Photo by Darren Harries

Manager Andy Hill has also the additional worry of even more injuries to contend with, with Jordan Davies having to be replaced by Lenny Evans six minutes after the restart following a challenge on halfway, while Chris Thomas also came off with Anton Nelson taking his place.

Just to add to the overall dispiriting picture, the Reds were again reduced to ten men just before the final whistle when Scott Tancock  was red-carded – their third dismissal in as many games, and Tancock`s second in just five weeks, following his sending-off at Bala Town.

With resources already stretched to breaking-point, more and more reliance is being placed on academy players to fill the gaps, and to their credit they are shaping up well against far more experienced and physical opponents.

Jamie Owen, Nelson, Evans and Tristan Jenkins were all involved at some stage against the Met. and certainly did not let the occasion get to them, and at least the future of the club seems to be moving in the right direction with these talents available.

The first half was dominated by the home side, with Loveridge having an early chance which was just wide of the near post.

Daniel Alfei, making his home debut, then set up another chance for the striker, but this time goalkeeper Alex Lang brought off a great save to divert Loveridge`s finish around the upright.

Constantly on the front foot, and playing some decent attractive football in atrocious conditions, the Reds had their opponents pinned back for long periods, and they were lucky to survive another attempt from Loveridge which beat Lang and was heading for the net before Dylan Rees somehow contrived a clearance off the line.

The Met keeper was being kept fully occupied, and again brought off another important save from Loveridge when he got clear on goal, but with the number of chances which had come his way, the home striker would know he should have converted at least a couple.

Another Reds` chance came from a Chris Jones corner which was met by Carlos Indja at the far post, but he steered his finish just off target.

Despite their overall dominance, the hosts had still failed to break the deadlock at the interval, and it was still all to play for in the second half.

It was then that the tide began to turn in favour of the visitors who were far more involved than in the opening forty-five minutes, and Oliver Davies in the home goal, who had been a virtual spectator, was at last called into some meaningful action.

Photo by Darren Harries

A run down the left by Adam Roscrow culminated in a ball across the face of the home goal which failed to pick out a colleague, while Sam Snaith narrowly failed to connect with his header from a Elliot Evans delivery.

When the Reds countered, another Loveridge effort was hacked out of the goalmouth, before almost inevitably the Met opened the scoring on 79 minutes when Harry Owen met a ball into the box close to goal, and despite Davies managing to parry his shot, he could not prevent it squirming from his grasp into the net

He then pulled off a fine save from Roscrow when he was set up by Ben Bowler, but with the final whistle approaching, Tancock was dismissed by referee David Morgan for a foul on the same player just outside the box when homing in on goal.

The subsequent free kick was taken by Evans, who rifled an unstoppable strike into the top corner leaving Davies helpless in the 88th minute to effectively put the contest out of the Reds` reach.

In stoppage time, Davies was again in action, this time turning around another attempt on target by Roscrow.

More heartache for the Reds, who have another difficult game awaiting them at Jenner Park on Friday evening (Oct 19) when they take on Barry Town United. Kick-off is at 7.45pm.

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