A COMMONWEALTH gold medalist has thrown his weight behind Chard’s campaign to name its new swimming pool after a local man.

Matthew Clay, who grew up in Chard, came first at 50m backstroke at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and won bronze medals at the European championships in 2005 and 2006.

He has backed the plans to name Chard’s new pool in tribute to John Farrant.

John was the head coach at Chard’s swimming pool for more than 20 years, and Matt was one of five local swimmers he took from learning the basics to a national championship.

After being born in South Africa, Matt moved to the UK and joined Chard Swimming Club when he was nine, staying there until he was 18.

Matt said: “It’s only now I’ve grown up and have a family of my own I can reflect on the sacrifices he made so others could achieve their potential.

“He spent countless hours on coaching kids, giving up probably more than half his weekends each year to go to numerous competitions and ensure swimmers competed to the best of their ability.”

The new pool, which will be built with a smaller training pool for children, is coming as part of South Somerset District Council’s Chard Regeneration Scheme.

The campaign to name the facility after John was launched in September after a former pupil contacted her councillor with the idea.

Matt added: “With all this time and dedication, John took Chard from a small club that didn’t really compete and was mainly a leisure club, to regularly holding our own against the biggest clubs in the South West, such as Plymouth and Cardiff.

“When you think about the difference in population and infrastructure, this shows not only the efforts but the talent of John to inspire so many children over many years to train hard and fulfil their potential.”

Libby Down, who started the pool-naming plan, spoke of how John’s leadership helped her in all aspects of life, not just swimming.

Matt echoed those sentiments, and added: “John was a man of few words, but this only meant that when he did say something, he meant it and it added weight to what he said.

“He certainly helped me believe in myself and have an internal desire to be the best I could, which is not only good for swimming but also later in life.

“I think this would be the lasting impact on so many people who came through the club, to have an internal desire and a willingness to work hard.

“For me personally, I don’t think I could ever thank him enough.”

John, who sadly died four years ago, gave up his time as a volunteer, and the campaign hopes to see him repaid for his service.

“I don’t think I would have achieved what I did if I had been at any other club,” said Matt.

“ He showed patience with me when I was younger and probably wasn’t as motivated as I should have been, and then pushed me harder to achieve my goals when I developed the desire to work hard and compete.

“I think naming the pool is a great tribute to a man who gave so much, set an amazing example for everyone and for whom so many people in Chard can be grateful.

“Given how much he did for Chard, this would be an honour and hopefully inspire future generations.”