Published: 28/11/2008 00:00 - Updated: 25/11/2011 15:50

Swim veteran to appear in BBC's sports gala night

Alex Sutherland with his award as BBC Scotland's Unsung Hero.
Alex Sutherland with his award as BBC Scotland's Unsung Hero.

AN Inverness swimming stalwart is set to rub shoulders with sports stars from all over the world next month. Octogenarian Alex Sutherland said he is honoured, but completely surprised, to be invited to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards in Liverpool after being judged Scotland's winner of the corporation's Unsung Hero Award. It comes 71 years after he helped found one of the original swimming clubs in the Highland Capital and this week he was keenly anticipating a return to the pool at the Aquadome following its closure in September following a fire. The 86-year-old, who still competes in swimming competitions and coaches youngsters, will go forward to the overall UK category of the award which will be announced at the event to be broadcast live on BBC 1 on 14th December. Mr Sutherland lives on Lochalsh Road with wife Rhoda and was a founder member of the London, Midland and Scottish Railways swimming club in Inverness back in 1937. He was taught to swim when he was six years old by his father in Inverness's old pool on Montague Row and said the sport had remained in his blood ever since. "It's a great honour for the club and we're looking forward to the night," he said. "I'm completely dependent on Rhoda and she does all my correspondence. I think I've been nominated for my coaching and, since the recent Aquadome fire, the club has been using the pool at Drummond School. I was training 40 youngsters last week and the BBC crew was amazed at the quality of their swimming." He said he was keen to meet Olympic medallists Rebecca Adlington and Chris Hoy. Mr Sutherland, a radio operator for RAF Bomber Command during World War II, competed in London's Victoria Aquacade in 1945 at the end of the conflict in the Union of Nations Gala, which featured six Olympic gold medallists. He swam all over the world during his five years in the air force before returning home to work for Inverness County Council as a librarian, retiring from the local authority 17 years ago. He has coached hundreds of swimmers in Inverness, including Scott Don who won the British championship in 1958 and Myles MacKintosh who competed in the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in 2002. He believes the future of swimming in the city is exceptionally bright and is particularly enthused by the emerging talent. "At the moment, I'm coaching a young lad called Rory More from Scorguie," he explained. "He's only 16 years old and is going to university but he's got the greatest potential I've ever seen." Dorothy Shanks, a former secretary of Inverness Swimming Club, nominated Mr Sutherland for the award and insists the veteran would be a worthy winner in Liverpool. "At the age of 86 he deserves all the recognition he gets," she said. "He has worked unbelievably hard and hasn't lost any of the enthusiasm he had when he was younger. He still swims competitively in veteran competitions and is a great ambassador for the club." All 15 national finalists in the Unsung Hero award will receive a £2500 bursary award from sponsors Robinsons.

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