Coogee swim sparks memories of mostly triumphant trophy days

We were on Cleveland Street near the Lebanese restaurants – The Prophet and Fatima’s – where I used to dine at in my uni days, when we got the call.

“You came third in your age group,” my niece Rosie relayed from her friends, the Moylans.

“Really?” I said. “Yes, really,” her young friends yelled down the phone.

Earlier that morning, my nieces’ Rosie and Mary and I did the 1km Coogee Beach Swim – the first ocean swim for Mary and the first for me for a couple of years.

Coogee Beach, Sunday 25 November 2018, photo by Therese Spruhan

It was good to do it – to be out in the sea – even though the water was choppy and the shore dump was challenging, and when we finished we had that satisfied feeling that comes with completing an ocean swim.

Coogee Beach Swim, Sunday 25 November 2018, photo Therese Spruhan

After, we watched the elite swimmers race through the 2.4kms around Wedding Cake Island, then headed to Tucker, Rosie’s favourite café at Randwick, for a well-earned feed.

Swimmers in the 2.4km Coogee Beach Wedding Cake Island swim, Sunday 25 November 2018, photo Therese Spruhan

We never thought to stick around for the presentation so it was a surprise when the Moylans rang to say both Mary and I had placed in our age group for women. In my case, I don’t think there were many in my 55-59 category but I happily accepted the third place. Later on, when Rosie sent me a photo of our medallions, I was reminded how much I loved winning trophies when I was a member of the Northbridge Amateur Swimming Club.

Each Saturday morning from October to the end of March from 1968 to 1980, I competed in the club races at Northbridge Baths. Over the season I collected points for coming first, second or third in the handicap races and on the last Sunday in March we competed in various events on club championship day.

Northbridge Swimming Club

A month or so after the season was over we gathered in the hall at Northbridge Public School for presentation night, something I looked forward to with great anticipation. In the first few years I didn’t win very much, but as my swimming improved, thanks to coaching from baths manager Col, I started to take home a few cups.

Swimming trophy, photo by Therese Spruhan

One year when I had a feeling I’d done particularly well, I was especially looking forward to receiving a shiny trophy. When presentation night came around, I sat excitedly, nervously beside my parents on the hard, grey seats at the back of the hall. When I heard my name I leapt up and strode towards the stage. But when I returned to my seat, I wasn’t happy. Instead of a trophy I was given a silver sweets tray, something my grandmothers might have used back in the day.

My sweets tray trophy from Northbridge Swimming Club

I sat there, trying to stop the tears, wondering why anyone would have thought I would want a sweets tray instead of a trophy with ribbons in the club colours of gold and maroon tied at the side.

Swimming club results, Therese Spruhan

Eventually I got over my disappointment and in my last year of high school, I took home the senior women’s champion perpetual trophy, a huge cup which I got to keep for a year.

Senior champion, 1977-78, Northbridge Swimming Club, Therese Spruhan

But once I left the club, early in my university days, when staying out late on a Friday night made it too hard to get up on Saturday mornings, that was the end of my trophy-winning days. Until two Sundays ago when a medal from the Coogee Swim rekindled those mostly happy memories of taking home a trophy on Northbridge Swimming Club presentation night.

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