SPLASH OUT ON A POOL; in the Wake of Stephen Parry's Success in Athens, Tony Barrett Reports on Calls for Liverpool Council to Build an Olympic-Size Swimming Pool
Byline: Tony Barrett
WHEN Stephen Parry started the race which took him to bronze medal success he did something he could never do in his home city -- dive into an Olympic size pool.
The lack of top-class swimming facilities in Liverpool has never been exposed as glaringly as it was on Tuesday night.
A city swimmer had just shot to national prominence on the back of a stirring performance in the Olympic 200m butterfly final and the national media descended on the pool where he trains -- in Stockport.
Ever since Stephen Parry, 27, was earmarked for sporting greatness he has had to train 40 miles from his Allerton home because there is no Olympic size pool in Liverpool.
The route along the M62 to Stockport is a well worn one for Liverpool's top swimmers, who are recognised as being among the very best in the country, as they attempt to reach the very top.
Their talent and commitment are not in doubt. Parry is one of several city swimmers who are making waves at national and international level.
And the coaching staff in Liverpool are highly regarded for guiding the early careers of swimmers like Parry and his Olympic bronze medal predecessor Andy Jamieson.
But until the city has its own Olympic standard pool there are concerns that Liverpool will never reach its full potential as a swimming centre of excellence.
Parry is as aware as anyone of the talent that exists in his home town. Now he says it is essential for this talent to be given the opportunity to flourish by providing swimmers with the top class facilities they deserve. Five years ago he reluctantly stopped training in Liverpool because he knew that to get the very best out of himself he had to train in a 50m pool, and he could only do that in Stockport.
He said: ``In 1999, when I started to prepare for the Sydney Olympics, the prime reason for moving to Manchester was the 50-metre pool.
``It's just essential -- without it, it's like asking athletes to train in a field. ``Liverpool has a great team, the coaching staff are excellent and the city undoubtedly has the best juniors in the country.
``But the time has come for the facilities to improve in Liverpool because until that happens every good young swimmer will be forced to look elsewhere if they want top-class facilities. ''
City of Liverpool swimming coach Colin Stripe oversaw the early stages of Stephen's swimming career and was as delighted as anyone when his protege landed an Olympic medal.
But he concedes that Liverpool could not offer Stephen what he needed to turn himself into a swimmer of international class.
At one stage Stephen's search for the facilities that would make a real difference to his performance levels took him to the USA.
Mr Stripe said: ``We are in great need of a 50m pool in Liverpool. …