The 15th USPE Swimming Championships were held in Hannover, Germany 28th August â€“ 1st September 2017. 11 swimmers from the PSUK team were selected to attend this prestigious event which only occurs every 4 years. It is the pinnacle of the police swimming calendar.
Polkinghorne, Gaskin, Evans, Gamble, Woolley, Thorn, Cumber, Dixon, Allen, White, Standen, Ramm, Cunnah
16 of Europe's strongest police swimming nations took part in Germany over the 3 days of competition. The event commenced with the official Opening Ceremony which saw Garry Dixon (TWP) have the honour of being the UK's flag bearer and wore full police uniform, accompanied by Team Manager, Claire Thorn wearing the PSUK uniform.
Team spirits were high and the team supported each other throughout the competition. The overall winners of the European Championships, which included both swimming and lifesaving, were the hosts, Germany â€“ who amassed an amazing 18 gold,13 silver & 8 bronze medals. Several of their swimmers included members of their Rio 2016 Olympic national team including Christoph Fildebrandt; Russia finished 2nd overall; with 12 gold, 14 silver & 14 bronze medals. They too had many Olympic competitors in their squad, including the overall top male swimmer of the event, Grinev Vladislav. Czech Republic came 3rd with United Kingdom coming 4th in the swimming. United Kingdom finished ahead of 12 European Countries including the traditionally strong countries of France, Italy, Norway and The Netherlands. Austria and France finished 5th & 6th respectively.
Interestingly out of the 78 medals available (26 of each colour) only 5 were awarded to competitors not from Germany or Russia and out of them only 1 was for an individual event. It was in fact unofficially named the German and Russian championships!
Aimee Ramm (Leic) swam consistently well throughout the competition finishing 5th in both the 50m freestyle & butterfly and 6th in the 100m freestyle. Other UK finalists on day 1 were Vicki Standen (West Mids), 8th in the 50m free and Nick Polkinghorne (D&C) 6th in the 100m breastroke. Nick was competing in his 5th European Championships and quite rightly received the USPE Medal of Honour for outstanding commitment and achievement in police sport. UK Delegate Bernie Gravett (Ret Met) also received this honour for his dedication to police sport.
Polkinghorne with Luc Smyers (USPE President)
The highlight of the first days swimming came at the end in the Ladies' 4 x 100m freestyle relay which consisted of Ramm, Standen, Claire Thorn (West Mids) & Sarah White (Surrey). The ladies had a phenomenal race to finish in the bronze medal position with Ramm aka 'Rocket' touching out the French by 00.01 seconds. All athletes that weren't German or Russian seemed genuinely happy as this was the first medal of the day going to another country.
Standen, White, Thorn, Ramm
The men's relay finished a respectable 8th place â€“ Dixon was joined by Tom Allen (Kent), Nigel Gaskin (West Mids) & Ross Woolley (Pol Scot).
Polkinghorne, Dixon, Woolley
Day 2 continued to be successful for the UK team with finals being made in the 400m freestyle by Thorn, White & Gaskin who finished 6th & 7th in the ladies and 8th in the men's event respectively. Cumber also made the final of the 100m backstroke finishing in 8th place. The UK showed their depth and strength in their team again in the relay events; Cumber, Thorn, Ramm & Standen as well as Woolley, Polkinghorne, Dixon & Allen finished in respectable 5th place in the Ladies' and Men's 4 x 100m Medley Relays.
Cumber, Thorn, Standen, Ramm
Finishing off the swimming events was the mixed 4 x 50m freestyle relay; Dixon, Ramm, Standen & Woolley qualified in 6th position from the morning's heat. The race was extremely exciting to watch with changes in the placings all the way through due to men racing women and vice versa. The UK team gave a gutsy performance to finish in the bronze medal position, a great way to end the championships.
Management Team: Bernie Gravett Delegate; Claire Thorn, Team Manager; Delyth Cunnah (Ret Scotland) & Richard Evans (Ret Met) Attendants did a great job looking after the team and motivating them to swim their best.
From Claire Thorn: "As Team Manager I was extremely proud of the way the swimmers conducted themselves; they swam to the best of their ability, qualifying for finals and improving on their heat times. To get 2 bronze medals against such tough competition was quite amazing. Everyone was extremely supportive of each other and remained committed and enthusiastic despite the phenomenal competition they were up against. As the Team Manager I could not have asked more of the team and was very proud to have been the manager. I would also like to thank Delyth and Richard for their commitment and support throughout. Our delegate, Bernie Gravett was an Ambassador for PSUK and despite having a full 'delegate programme' to follow took much time out to support the team; he also was the team masseur".
Germany and Russia quite clearly dominated the event but it should be noted that these countries take sport within the police very seriously and have the advantage of police training programmes of up to 4 years where they actively seek out top class athletes, allow them to continue training and offer them a career and accommodation whilst doing so. Some of the Russian swimmers had previously received doping bans but still allowed to participate. We can be proud of our performance both as individuals and as a team in this extremely high level competition.