Nicola's a winner
Huge thanks to Brian Thomas and his extended family for the prizes, and also to Alan Mitchell, our Club President, who regaled us all with a comprehensive history of the Thomas' family involvement with Serpentine SC.
It was back in 1936, when Sgt Thomas Wade Thomas (Tommy) joined the club, aged 14. Just five years later (on 13 September 1941) the 19 year-old was killed on active service with the RAF. His Blenheim bomber tragically crashed on take-off from RAF Watton in Norfolk, killing all four on board. Tommy had been a wireless operator/air gunner and is buried in Willesden New Cemetery.
At the time of the crash Tommy’s father was serving in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, and his sister in the WAAF. Tommy’s brother Ted was in the Middlesex Regiment. It was the following Easter, 1942, that the cup was donated to the club for competition.
Ted was active at Serps and often took cine footage of the club's races in the 1970s. Ted passed away in 1984 aged 64.
It was Brian, (Ted's son) who continued the family tradition of being very active with the club. Brian was President from 2001-04, and Club Secretary from 2009 to 2017. Brian also worked as a lifeguard at the Serpentine Lido in the 1980 and 1981 seasons. Brian and Odette have a son Oliver and a daughter Geraldine who played rugby for England U20s.
Alan added that Brian's other activities include beekeeping, skiing, and watching football in the form of QPR. Brian was also a keen rugby player and, when finally hanging-up his boots in his early 40s, continued his involvement by coaching children at Wasps rugby club. Effectively, Brian does not sit still.
It was in 1957 that a very young Brian stood on a table outside the Serpentine pavilion on the morning of that year’s Sgt. Thomas race.
In 1967 he was 'volunteered' to join the club by his great Aunt Dorothy Winbush, at the tender age of 11 years. Brian was encouraged to swim a 440 yard race at the Serpentine on a very cold spring morning. And thankfully, he continues to race at the Serps to this day.
Thanks to Brian's family who were present: sister Julia, brother-in-law Walter, cousin Jimmy and his wife Maureen and nephews Alec and Ross (and his partner Becs). Not forgetting young Lewis, one of Brian’s two bull terriers.
As for the competition, there were two races over 220 yards. A short distance, but in cold water temperatures, one that quickly saps energy.
If only they sold stamina on eBay or Amazon, alas there is only one way of acquiring it, and that's by doing the hard yards. And judging by yesterday's great race, Nicola Sanderson has been busy with swim training, as she appeared to be getting stronger as the race progressed.
Cruisng like Thomas the Tank Engine, Nicola held off the fast finishing Alan Mitchell to win the first heat of the 220 yards race for the Ted & Sgt Thomas Memorial Cup.
The second heat was won by an equally stamina infused swimmer in the shape of Cedric Guyot. A post-race algorithmic check by the timekeepers gave the overall win to Nicola. And having watched the race, it was just the right ticket for Nicola as she swam well.
We had a different direction for racing swimmers from the start; we went west towards the bridge for yesterday's 220 yard race, and racing east on the return leg, and it looked as if both Nicola and Cedric could have made it to France.
Good luck to Nicola on her next challenge, she will race the swim leg of a half ironman relay race in Montenegro.
[Photos Brian Thomas]