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Brian was thrown in at the deep end at Olympics in 64
WITH no coach, no goggles and an unheated pool to train in, Brian Jenkins’ experience of the Olympics was a world away from the Games that are due to open on Friday.
The 69-year-old, of Old Town , took part in the 200m butterfly race in Tokyo in 1964 when he was 20, finishing 11th out of 16 in the semi-finals.
Brian, who was a plumbing apprentice at the time, used to train in Milton Road baths but when it closed for refurbishment he moved to Bristol and later to an unheated outdoor pool in Chippenham.
“I used to go down to the swimming baths before work, I didn’t have a coach. I had a part-time schoolteacher coach but that was all,” said the father-of-two.
“We didn’t even have basic things like goggles – they weren’t invented then. I used to come out of the swimming baths and my eyes were as raw as a piece of meat, it was awful,” he said.
“I didn’t make the final but I should have done. I was so young and didn’t have anyone with me. I didn’t know if it was a good thing to have a short or a long warm-up and I only ever did butterfly. There used to be a saying that the more you did something the better you became, but it didn’t work like that. I now know that you need to do different strokes and use different muscles but I was using butterfly every time. My shoulders became so painful.
“I was in the wilderness in that respect. I’m not blowing my own trumpet but I did very well. I didn’t have any guidance.”
Brian, who runs plumbing business Tamar Services, said the experience was unforgettable.
“It was awe-inspiring. The pool in Tokyo was incredibly futuristic but the sad thing was it was closed down afterwards because it was so expensive to maintain,” he said.
After his success at the Games, Brian was invited to a Civic Reception at 10 Downing Street.
Brian recalls that when training in Chippenham, he got so cold in the pool, which was between 15C and 17C, that he could only train for half-an-hour before he got too cold and had to warm up with a full English breakfast before getting back in the pool.
His then girlfriend and now wife of 48-years, Gillian, used to travel with him.
Brian remembered one occasion where the River Avon flooded the pool and he trained with fish and frogs in the water.
Brian previously won a silver medal at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1962 and later became British Champion at the Masters in 1970.
“My wife and I wanted to get married, we had been together for five or six years. I thought there was no future in swimming – there wasn’t then – so I packed it up and concentrated on my job as a plumber. It was all behind me then,” he said.
“Going down the swimming baths on my own early in the morning doing length after length, it was really quite a soul destroying sport back then.
“Nowadays you train as a squad and it’s good fun. “If you don’t feel well your training partner can spur you on but I used to go down there on my own. How I stuck at it I don’t know.”