Profile – Grace Wood
My first international representation was for England, one of only five in the swimming team in the then Empire Games (now Commonwealth) which was held in Auckland New Zealand in 1950. I swam in the 440yds freestyle, and the 4 x 110 freestyle relay, in which we won a bronze medal. It was a long trip by boat meant being away from home for five months. We had no officials with us, so as the youngest member of the team, I was mainly looked after by the one diver in the team.
In 1952 after swimming in our trials at Blackpool (this was the first place I had ever swam in a race, whilst being evacuated in WW2) I was honoured to be chosen for the 440 again. In the actual race in The Helsinki Olympics, I narrowly missed making the final, but at least I swam the fastest time I had ever swum.
This representation certainly opened up a new world to me, with a reception at Buckingham Palace, meeting members of the royal family, on quite a few occasions. The queen had not been crowned when we went to the place in 1952
In these days we were true amateurs, tho very professional in our training and preparation, we just weren’t paid to do it.
You may ask how did this all start? I can’t ever remember not being able to swim, but living near a swimming pool, also I went to Portway modern Secondary School, in Shirehampton. Bristol had a very strong ethos towards swimming, and at Portway we were very much encouraged to compete by the headmistress Miss Shewell. I believe I was the only girl to win the girls freestyle championship for three consecutive years.
From my success at Bristol schools, I joined Bristol Central swimming club of which I remained a member until it recently became part of Bristol Aquatics, here I met the only coach I’ve ever had Mr George Jones G.M., who not only was the coach but at one time secretary and treasurer of the club, what an amazing Bristol man.
Grace Isaac –
When I retired my second son suggested I return to swimming, so I resumed coaching/ teaching and officiating, eventually competing in Masters’s events, in which I’ve held world, European and National championships mainly on front crawl. Also as part of a relay team held world etc records.
These days I swim in the 85+ age group, as I am not physically able to climb on the starting block I swim mainly backstroke events.
When I’m swimming I feel so relaxed and free from physical pain, a wonderful feeling, and long may it continue. Who’d have thought that just participating and having a natural ability in a sport I have always loved would bring me so pleasure, and friendships throughout the world.
Besides, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, I am member of the Methodist church, where I am a qualified local preacher. Who’d have thought that a small very shy girl , who grew up in a Bristol Council estate, failed her 11+, could achieve so much, mainly due to the support and bank of my parents, and my coach George Jones G.M. I have had such a blessed and interesting life.