‘Olympic’ race for new pool opening

Former Olympic swimmer and ex-Giles School pupil Melanie Marshall with head teacher and former Olympic diver Chris Walls. GG
Former Olympic swimmer and ex-Giles School pupil Melanie Marshall with head teacher and former Olympic diver Chris Walls. GG

A RACE between former Olympic athletes marked the official opening of Giles Academy’s £700,000 swimming pool.

The school’s head teacher Chris Walls went head-to-head in a race against former Olympic swimmer and Giles School pupil Melanie Marshall, of Wrangle.

Melanie represented Britain in the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Games – while Mr Walls himself is a former Olympic athlete, having competed in springboard diving for the 1972 Munich Games.

Asked how the races went, Mr Walls said: “I beat her in the first race, but this is only because she gave me a five second head-start.

“In the second race we went head-to-head and Mel beat me – but only by 2.44 seconds.”

The swimming pool was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and the unveiling of a plaque bearing Melanie’s name. The former Giles pupil is England’s most successful woman ever to compete in a single Commonwealth Games, after claiming six medals at Melbourne in 2006.

The opening ceremony also saw gala races between year groups and staff – and culminated in 1,015 balloons being released – one for each pupil at the Old Leake school.

Deputy head Sue Barnicoat said: “Today has marked the first of our celebrations for 50 years of Giles School and we have many more events planned.”

Mr Walls has been pressing for a swimming pool at Giles since joining the school in 1992.

Mrs Barnicoat said: “Mr Walls has been so excited about the pool that first thing on Monday he dashed to get his swimming trunks to be the first one in – but we had to remind him he had a maths class that morning.”

Work began on the new swimming facility last December – which also boasts a plunge pool, sauna and jacuzzi for sixth form pupils and school staff to use. It took a fortnight to fill it with water.

Two full-time swimming coaches have now been taken on at the school to boost pupils’ abilities.

Mr Walls added: “We have already set new swimming records for the school and hope to see these being continually smashed over the coming years.”