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Golden era of swimming recalled

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The 1950s are often regarded as the golden era of Australian swimming.

Recently the National Film and Sound Archive received a donation of rare film footage of swimmers at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games at Vancouver in 1954. It includes local swimmers Lorraine Crapp (now Lorraine Thurlow) and Jon Henricks.

The local Concord community contributed to a fund to send swimmers Jon Hendricks and Lorraine Crapp and oarsman David Anderson to the Vancouver Games. Lorraine Crapp, who was just 15 years old at the time, won the 110-yard and 440-yard gold medals at Vancouver. Upon their return from the Games there was a special civic reception for the three athletes at Concord Council Chambers (at that time situated on Burwood Road, Concord). The photograph shows Lorraine Crapp, wearing the official Games uniform, with David Anderson following. The girls acting as a guard of honour are swimmers from the Cabarita Ladies’ Amateur Swimming Club of which Lorraine was a member. More images of the civic reception can be seen on flickr.

All three athletes went on to participate in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne with both Lorraine Crapp and Jon Henricks winning gold medals.

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Local club made a big splash

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In the early 1950s the Cabarita Ladies’ Amateur Swimming Club had a big impact on Australian women’s swimming.

The club was founded by Lesley Thicknesse who had been a diver at the Empire (now Commonwealth) Games in London in 1934. Her three daughters Janet, Val and Pam along with Lorraine and Thelma Crapp were among the first members of the club. Based at Cabarita Baths (now Cabarita Swimming Centre), six members of the club were part of the Australian team at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.

In view of the regimens of today’s elite swimmers, it’s interesting to reflect on training 1950s style. Winter calisthenics classes were held on the backyard lawn of the Thicknesse family home. Participants were reminded to ‘bring a rug or small blanket’. However, training was under the guidance of Frank Guthrie, one of the great coaches of the period, who helped Lorraine Crapp achieve enormous success in the pool.

The photograph shows Pat Huntingford and Lorraine Crapp participating in a Cabarita Ladies’ Amateur Swimming Club calisthenics class in 1955.

City of Canada Bay is hosting a family fun day at Bayview Park, Concord on Saturday, 21 March 2015, 12noon – 4pm as part of the Parramatta River Catchment Group – Our Living River initiative, to make the Parramatta swimmable again. Come along, it’s free!