Paul.E.Bailey’s World – The Loser That Always Won: My Swimming Story Part 1

The following is a story of a young man. Unlike the stories I’ve shared on WordPress before today this one is non-fiction. It’s a story of a period in my life that was filled with equal parts of victorious pleasure and lonely pain. A tough period that wielded great success. That success was perhaps part of the reason it was such a tough time.

Please note that all names used besides my own and those of the clubs are false to protect the identities of the people in question.

I forget exactly how old I was when I joined Ashton-under-Lyne Swimming Club. I was around ten or eleven I think. I joined mainly because my aspirations of becoming a footballer had been quelled after a bad experience with Dukinfield Tigers Football Club and the nepotistic manager. His style of ‘management’ almost quelled my desire and confidence to join any other sports club and my distaste towards the man has never diminished. He probably has no idea how much his actions affected that boy I once was.

When I joined Ashton I don’t think I was really anything special. I could swim and enjoyed doing it, but there was no special talent there as far as I was concerned. I trained every Tuesday and Thursday and was somewhere along the line deemed good enough to compete in meets (known as galas) for the club.

My story really begins when I was twelve years old. It was around this time when I realised that I was actually pretty good at swimming. In an interclub gala, I finished second in the 50 metres freestyle race behind George; the boy who was recognised as the best at the club at that particular race. He won the big shiny cup and I remember thinking that I’d do all in my power to take it off him next year. It’d take hard work, but I’d do it.

So I worked hard. I not only started training extra at swimming, but I also started training at my uncle’s gym; The Olympic Gym. I didn’t have an obsessive desire to become an amazing swimmer, but it was a thought that while I was doing it I might as well try and get good at it.

My progress was immense over the course of the next year. I went from being pretty much an also-ran to one of the best young swimmers at Ashton. I was arguably the hardest working too. I started winning my races and winning them a lot; against both other swimmers at Ashton and in galas against other clubs.

So eventually came the interclub gala and my race with George. My chance to avenge the defeat from last year. I was better, stronger and faster this time around. I was the favourite and he well knew it. I didn’t disappoint. While he’d beaten me by a decent margin the year before, I beat him by an even more comfortable margin this time around. I, to put it in as Mancunian a way as possible, twatted him! The big shiny cup was mine! My name was engraved on it and everything. More importantly, I’d kept my promise to myself.

That was the rocket up the arse that my swimming career needed. There was no stopping me from that point. I trained harder and I got better. George, possibly as a result of the spanking I gave him, left Ashton shortly after that interclub gala. Hardly a surprise if he hadn’t progressed at all. In all honesty, he probably went backwards.

When I was thirteen, Ashton’s golden boy, Darren, took me under his wing. Darren was the coolest guy I’d ever known. He was five years older than I was, he was really good-looking (and boy, did he know it), he drove a cool car, he had a hot girlfriend and, most importantly, he was a fucking awesome swimmer. He also had a great taste in music. I attribute my love for dance music to him in part (the other part I attribute to my elder sister).

Darren and I became good friends. He’d pick me up before training to take me for drives in his car and he also started taking me to train at another club to aid my development. He saw the potential in me and wanted to help bring it to the fore. I drew strength from Darren. He was pretty much my idol. I modelled myself on him as much as I possibly could. At school, I’d get judged for not being “cool”, but they really didn’t know just how cool my friend was. If only they could all see…

Being Darren’s wingman definitely improved me. It inspired me to become even better. The training with my uncle at the gym increased in tempo too. I was doing that several times a week as well as four swimming sessions. The hard work was paying off plus dividends.

I’d quickly become the best all-around junior swimmer at the club (junior being under sixteen). I was used in great abundance in galas and would compete in several races both individually and in relay teams. I was the fastest junior at Ashton in the crawl, backstroke and butterfly whilst remaining a close second behind Jamie in the breaststroke. I was sweeping the board at the interclub galas and winning virtually every race I competed in at junior level whilst holding my own at senior level too.

Still aged thirteen, I finished runner-up in the 50 metres backstroke over the course of the season in the Central Lancashire Junior League. It was an accolade I hadn’t expected as I hadn’t been made aware of how many races I’d won or lost and hadn’t kept count. Once again; just like with the interclub 50 metres freestyle; I saw silver and thought “why aren’t you gold?”

My next target was locked. The training intensified all the more. I didn’t attend any more sessions than before, but I was working harder and pushing myself further. My uncle started training me on a more personal level with a discipline called plyometrics. It was difficult and it tested me, but I enjoyed it. I got a real buzz from a tough training session and my uncle never went easy on me. Neither did our new trainer at Ashton, Carl. I loved the intensity and really fed off it.

I got better still. So good that I was being included in senior galas by the time I turned fourteen. The difference between junior and senior was massive and it really tested my mettle, but I was running guys who were substantially older than I was very close. I always felt disappointed when I lost. Losing had become something of a rarity. I was addicted to winning.

While I was falling just short in the seniors, at junior level I was taking on all comers and dispensing of the challenge; especially at 50 metres backstroke, which had quickly become my speciality directly as a result of the silver medal I’d attained the previous season. I was propelling my team to victory in some relays, while I was the only one who scored Ashton any points at all in a handful of galas. It was a frustrating place to be in; too good for the juniors, but not quite ready for the seniors.

In amongst all of the club swimming were meets at Broughton swimming pool where I competed on a more individual basis. The club element still existed as you were a representative of your club, but the majority of the races were for single competitors. It was a different vibe there altogether and I always felt a touch intimidated by the ambience, especially when I was younger. These galas wielded success for me too though. The field was much more competitive than I was used to as it included swimmers from other leagues as well as Central Lancashire and it was always a good feeling to come away from Broughton with a medal.

I was fourteen during this particular season; the season I was chasing overall gold in the 50 metres backstroke. I chased hard. I stared down every competitor and ensured the mental edge was mine before every race. In the end, the result was academic. I won every single 50 metres backstroke race over the course of the season in the Central Lancashire Junior League. The only person who came close was a lad called John from Stalybridge Swimming Club. The gold was mine. I was not only the aggregate champion at 50 metres backstroke, but I was undefeated also. That felt good!

At the interclub presentation for that season, I won both the aggregate trophy (most gold medals won by one swimmer at the interclub galas) and the Club Swimmer of the Year. Neither came as a surprise. I’d earned them on merit and I don’t feel narcissistic in saying so. The problem I had is that everybody knew how good I’d become in such a short space of time and it didn’t sit well with some of them; both swimmers and parents alike.

The ride was destined to become rough at Ashton Swimming Club. It was going to become hellish in a way that no teenager should have been made to suffer, but then jealousy is a wanton thing and can really bring out the worst in people.


If you are interested in joining or having your child/children join any of the clubs mentioned then click on the links that will take you directly to the homepage of each. I cannot advocate children getting into sport highly enough.

Also please check out my Uncle Mick’s blog at only is he the founder of The Olympic Gym, but has coached a number of sporting superstars; especially during his time as fitness coach at Manchester United Football Club. His musings are definitely worth a read!

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22 thoughts on “Paul.E.Bailey’s World – The Loser That Always Won: My Swimming Story Part 1

  1. Just catching up with your blog. This was amazing as it was actually about you! I really admire people who have the tenacity and drive to push themselves that hard. Also I don’t think I have ever won anything in my life, so competing and winning is a completely unknown thing to me. I admire people who are winners 🙌 I can see that competitive streak still present in you, even though you’re no longer a swimmer. It’s in your brain. The control you have over your mind is incredible. You have a striving mentality. I have that too, though in a completely different way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you liked this then you’ll definitely like part 2 where shit gets real and in a less than positive way.
      I loved competing in the pool. I was always nervous before a race, but it was an excited nervous. An adrenaline rush. I was always disappointed in defeat too. I’d always be really critical of what I did wrong and it was rare I lost a race because somebody was better than I was. It was normally because of a mistake.
      Swimming is one of few things I’ve ever been able to be justifiably big-headed about.
      I’m still very much competitive, but in a different way. I’m more competing with the difficulties and challenges of life and it’s a far bigger challenge than any person I raced against in the pool. Our struggles are different, but I think there are many traits of our personality that are alike. We put pressure on ourselves to be better than what we are, but also fight wars against the opposing pressures of society. I hope you’re well xxx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll look out for part two. It’s really positive to have a talent that you particularly excel at-it builds esteem. Having a positive self concept is a buffer against the stress and pain of life. Self efficacy and personal mastery keeps depression at bay so it’s a muscle to be worked to maintain ourselves emotionally. Like the psychological analysis there 😉 I’m bouncing all over the place as usual, mood wise, but the overall trend is good Xx

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You can’t beat a good psychological analysis. Haha. Where swimming is concerned I was always considered one of the losers at school (hence the title of the post) and swimming was my proof to the contrary. It was never enough to win over the popular people at school – why would it be? But then it quickly became so much more important than that. Once I was old enough to realise what pathetic bastards most of the popular kids at school were I realised what I was doing was umpteen times more impressive than any of their bullshit. I was on a totally different plain to any of those fuckers.
        I like a good trend. I really hope that remains the case. Smiling beats frowning hands down and a happy Sumani means a happier world…or something less hippy sounding! xxx

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It’s sad you were considered a loser. So was I, so I know how crap that feels. I excelled academically, which made me even more unpopular. The popular kids turned into dysfunctional adults, so I’m glad to be unpopular 😊 Happy Sumanis post awful videos on their blog of them performing different regional and international accents on car journeys with unbrushed hair. I was hypomanic yesterday 😱Scary! X

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I was considered a loser because I kept the company of decent people rather than utter cunts! Being a cunt was a prerequisite for popularity at my school it seems. Popularity never concerned me though. It doesn’t now. The thought of becoming famous for my writing or whatever actually makes me feel ill. Popularity is overrated.
        Okay, the performing of accents is something I HAVE to hear! That sounds too good to let it pass me by 😂 xxx

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I certainly did. I wasn’t a slouch at all. My Uncle was a fitness coach at arguably the biggest football club in the world, so there was no way he was going to go easy on me with the training. I wouldn’t have had it any other way

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You achieve it all with a lot of work put into it…
        And it’s just so sad 😭 when others on the outside …
        Team members… friends.. parents..
        Gets so damn jealous 😒 instead of being proud…
        if only the took the time to see how much you put into it. And how hard you have worked for the rewards…
        but you did it.. and got your reward.. and you left on top of the world 🌎 knowing and feeling wonderful.. because all of your sacrifices pay 💰 off ..
        no feeling better than being the best at what you worked so hard at..,

        Do you still love ❤️ swimming 🏊???


  2. Well now you have my interest peaked – curious to find out what troubles you had following this. I must say you sound like a dedicated individual.When I was about that age (well 12 or 13) I was encouraged to join a swim team based off of swim days – competitions between our school houses. Never did do it though – clearly I wasn’t as motivated. Wish I had been more motivated, at least in a sport in general, let alone something like Swimming, when I was younger. Also: side note – my BFF boy (also a blond haired blue eyed boy LOL) was a swim team champion as a teen/in his college days. What a co-inky-dink LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ll find out soon enough. It wasn’t exactly what you’d call a happy ending.
      I was always going to end up doing some kind of sport. It’s pretty much I’m my blood, not that I didn’t have to train hard to get good at swimming.
      Co-inky-dink just makes me think of Popeye with Robin Williams. Now I want to watch it…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hoping I’ll get to write it up in the next few days, but still have other things to do in the meantime too. I don’t have enough fingers on enough hands, not to mention enough hours in the day

        Liked by 1 person

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