Special outing for daughter of 1936 water polo Olympian

Kingston Guardian: Proud: Gill Martin celebrated her father's Olympics Proud: Gill Martin celebrated her father's Olympics

The daughter of a 1936 Olympian made a poignant visit to a London 2012 water polo match, 76 years to the day her late father competed in the same event.


Gill Martin, of Teddington Park, Teddington, proudly took her dad Bill’s one-piece costume and chatted about the sport’s history with Team GB captain Craig Figes, who tried on the old swimsuit.


Her father competed in the infamous Hitler games in Berlin and, although his team did not achieve a podium finish, they had an impressive 8-2 win over Malta.


Miss Martin wore her dad’s navy woollen blazer, emblazoned with the Union Jack, when she and her eldest son Jamie Higgs joined 5,000 spectators to watch a water polo match on Wednesday, August 1.


She said: “He was a brilliant swimmer who taught me and Jamie and countless children and adults to swim. He also trained his friend and colleague Ted Temme to become the first man to swim the Channel both ways.


“Dad’s sporting career was during the era of rank amateurism when the glory was as much in the taking part as in the winning.” 


She said her father had to squeeze in his training at weekends and after work and had to give up smoking for the six months before the 1936 games.


Mr Martin’s widow Brenda, 99, now keeps his swimming costume and navy jacket as treasured family heirlooms at her home in Ashford.


His daughter added: “Swimming was always part of his life. He and his two brothers and three sisters were all strong swimmers as their father was superintendent of the local swimming baths. 


“In those carefree times before health and safety they spent every spare minute in the pool and swam for club, county or country.


“When he was married and living on a Thames houseboat his early morning ritual was a dive into the river to retrieve the cutlery my mother Brenda had thrown overboard with the washing-up water, change into his business suit, bowler hat and furled brolly for the daily commute to Lloyds of London where he worked in maritime insurance.”


She said her father, who died on a golf course aged 73, was always modest about being an Olympian and rarely wore his jacket.


She said: “The Olympic blazer came out of mothballs for our seaside holidays. But when the jacket attracted attention among the donkeys and deckchairs he consigned it to the back of the wardrobe, where it remained all my childhood.


“It had the odd outing when my sons Jamie and Nick needed smartening up for a wedding as teenagers. When London won the Olympic bid I felt it was a time for a special outing.”

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