LOCAL schools took to Winchester Sport and Leisure Park for the Winchester City Penguin’s Primary Schools Gala 2022.

The annual event made its return today, welcoming 24 Winchester schools and more than 200 children after two years of Covid cancellations.

The full list of schools competing: All Saints, Bishop's Waltham, John Keble, Kings Worthy, Merdon, Oliver’s Battery, Otterbourne, Owslebury, Princes Mead, Scantabout, Sherborne House, South Wonston, St Bede, St Faith’s, St Peter's, St Swithun Wells, St. Swithun’s, Stanmore, Pilgrims’, Twyford, Twyford St Marys, Upham, Weeke, Westgate and Winnall.

Hampshire Chronicle: Winchester City Penguins 20th Primary Schools swimming gala. Twyford celebrate winning the boys mixed stroke relay final.

Winchester City Penguin’s Swimming Club (WCPSC) had around 70 volunteers to make sure the day ran as swimmingly as possible, with most of the children never having swam competitively.

Thelma Hawkings, event organiser and swimming coach from the club, said: “It’s lovely to see it finally happening- it’s been three years since the last gala and now we have new venue so that’s exciting.

“For many of these swimmers, they don’t represent their school at anything else so it’s wonderful for them to get to do that. And the confidence they get from doing this is amazing- whether they’re first or last.”

Event sponsors such as Embley Park and St. Swithun’s School as well as the Mayor of Winchester, Cllr Derek Green, were also in attendance to show their support and take part in the award presentations.

Hampshire Chronicle: Winchester City Penguins 20th Primary Schools swimming gala. Boys mixed stroke relay final medal presentation.

The Mayor said: “It’s extremely important for the children, allowing them to interact with other schools, they can make lots of friends, it’s a huge amount of fun and it keeps them healthy.

“It’s absolutely fabulous that we can get back to normal now. Everybody’s happy and it’s lovely to see people enjoying themselves.”

Nearly 30 races took place, including both individual and relay races as well as an invitational fun float relay to allow all swimmers the chance to win a prize.

Hampshire Chronicle: Winchester City Penguins 20th Primary Schools swimming gala. Otterbourne celebrate winning the girls mixed stroke relay final.

Thelma and a small committee started planning back in January. Justin Bradley, chairman of the trustee board said: “It takes an awful lot of preparation. A lot of the people that are with Winchester Penguins are volunteers and so they give up a lot of time to put on a great gala for all the local children.

“As a charity we have a real responsibility to look after the community. So, I think it’s really important that people see school galas going on and helping the community.”

Although, the centre was filled with cheering and excitement the event did highlight how the pandemic has impaired children’s swimming lessons.

Event organiser Thelma said: “It’s been very difficult the last few years where the pools have been closed. Parents have been struggling as they haven’t been able to get their kids in the pool whether that’s with school or outside of school.

Hampshire Chronicle: Winchester City Penguins 20th Primary Schools swimming gala. Year 4 girls 25 metres final medal presentation.

Volunteer Lionel Jones, who has been helping with the club for 20 years, said: “Swimming is a life skill. And for parents it means you can relax if you go on holiday or to the beach and your kids are in the water.

“The aim is that kids should be able to swim 25m (one length) before they leave primary school.”

Half-way through the gala, some of the club’s senior swimmers took centre stage. The swimmers, who compete at national level, swam lengths at three quarter speed to show the children how it’s done.

The WCPSC also had talent spotters poolside, handing out club invitations to promising competitors. The club said that “it’s always in our interest to try and get more good swimmers.”

Hampshire Chronicle: Winchester City Penguins 20th Primary Schools swimming gala.


The event concluded at midday with award presentations and a certificate and a goodie bag for each competitor. The WCPSC hope to be back at the Barend facility with the 21st Primary Schools Gala next year.

The full list of event sponsors: Southern Communications Group, Alexander Design, Christes Hospital Foundation, Embley School, Hendy Group, Resourceful Marketing, Ringo, Sportskool, St. Swithun’s School, Winchester Connected and Everyone Active.


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