Were you one of the Wearside ‘champions of tomorrow’ almost 40 years ago?
We are turning the clock back to the day when international swimming star David Wilkie came to Sunderland to meet some of the rising stars of the area.
It was back in 1980 and David, an Olympic gold medallist at the Montreal games, was paying a visit to the Joseph’s sports shop where he was promoting swimwear.
And among the crowds waiting to see him were five members of the Sunderland Swimming Club.
All of the youngsters were aged under 10 and they had all recorded success themselves.
The Sunderland Echo report at the time said: “They have recorded a string of swimming successes that made even David Wilkie sit up and take notice!”
The fab five were Hamish McCarthy, Paul Smith, Ian Wilson, Ian Witson and Jason O’Neil.
They won the North East freestyle championship which was held at Leeds and it was the first time that Sunderland had won the gold medal.
But success went further than that for Sunderland’s own swimming heroes.
They won the ‘Arena’ swimming championships at Billingham and all that success brought words of encouragement and advice from David Wilkie. He said at the time: “It is really nice to see a club from this end of the country doing so well.
“In swimming, confidence is a vital factor and it is important for these boys to believe in their own ability.
“Of course, training is important but when I was their age I used to hate it.
“Somebody always managed to drag me down to the pool two or three nights a week though.
“I think it is also important for young swimmers to have a carrot dangled in front of them. Wilkie won a gold medal, Duncan Goodhew won a gold, and youngsters want to copy our achievements.”
The Sunderland Echo at the time told how David had made himself a splash hit with the autograph hunters who had come to meet him.
After visiting Sunderland, David set off for Darlington where he was lined up to host a ‘Swimalong’ event to raise money to send British athletes to the next Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Australia.
David’s story was the headline in the Junior Echo section of the paper 38 years ago this week.
But it wasn’t the only one which highlighted how sporting Wearside was at the time.
Another piece told of ice skaters from Sunderland who were making their mark on the world.
Catherine Howe, who trained at the Crowtree Leisure Centre, was second in the British Junior National Championships at Solihull and it was the 15-year-old’s first attempt at the competition.
Her teammate Denis Gotts, 15, was chosen by the National Skating Association to take part in an international competition in Czechoslovakia.
Alison Southwood, 17, was another Sunderland skating success at the time and she was about to head out to take part in the Skate Canada Competition.
At the younger end of the scale in 1980, eight-year-old Tracy O’Connor had just won two major trophies, according to her coach Mildred Atherly.
Another sport to get Junior Echo’s attention in 1980 was sailing.
The youngsters who got to enjoy it were from adventure playgroups in the Hendon, Marley Pots, Thompson Park and Pennywell areas.
They took part in a six-week sailing course organised by the Sunderland Recreation Department.
Instructor Peter McClymont led them on a course where they learned the correct way to sail, and got to build their own boats.
Many got certificates to show they had successfully completed the course .
Junior Echo said at the time: “For most, this was their first opportunity to sail, a chance most of them grasped with great enthusiasm.”
Among them was 13-year-old Neil Robertson who said at the time: “I enjoyed learning to capsize which can be a bit dangerous. The important thing is tokeep calm.”
Did you make the pages of Junior Echo? Were you one of the people to meet David Wilkie, go sailing or become a success at ice skating.
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