In December 1990 Val Parsons received a fitting tribute for her long distance swimming performances and her efforts to raise the status of that branch of the sport. Her name was added to those in the Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The letter of congratulation said; ‘Your achievements and contributions to the sport are recognised by the Committee as being outstanding.’
At a ceremony at the Beverley Hotel on November 30th Nick Gillingham unveiled an oak plaque that listed the club’s international representatives in swimming and water polo, there are 21 of them. Among the local dignitaries present were The Mayor, Councillor M. Barton, Mr. D. Guy, Director of Leisure Services, and Mr. F. Throw, Head of the Council’s Sports Division. Staffordshire ASA was represented by its President Mrs. F. Talbot, and the Midland District ASA by Mr. Peter Holmes, a past President.
It was an evening of nostalgia; the club displayed its Victorian trophies and earliest record book, there were thirteen of the club’s seventeen living internationalists present, and several relatives of those deceased. Mr. Ray Aulton Jnr was one of the guests, his father had been the club’s first international.
Two weeks before the unveiling the club received the sad news that Edna Hughes had died. She was the club’s first Olympian and coach to the Ladies Section for some years after she retired in 1938.
The first swimming event of 1991 was the World Championships in Perth that began on January 3rd. Gillingham qualified for the final of the 200m with 2:14.10 – the second fastest of the qualifiers, but he faced a formidable line up in the final. There was Mike Borrowman (USA), the world record holder at 200m, Jozsef Szabo (Hungary) the Olympic Champion at 200, and Norbert Rozsa (Hungary) who had earlier won the 100m in world record time.
Borrowman showed superb form, he set an incredibly fast pace, 29.86 for the first 50m and 1:03.19 at 100m, led the race from start to finish and came home in 2:11.23 – a new World Record. Rozsa (2:12.03) took second place and Gillingham (2:13.12) was third. It was a race of the highest quality and Nick’s bronze meant he had now taken medals at the four majors – World, Olympics, European and Commonwealth.
The diddies, Walsall’s budding champions, began the year by travelling to Shrewsbury and returning with the Tanner Trophy, it was the third year they had won it. At the Staffs Championships at Wolverhampton in March, Michael Bowd took junior titles at 50 and 100m freestyle and 200 medley. Alison Cashmore won the senior women’s 200 butterfly, and Jenny Turner won the 14 year olds 100 breaststroke and 200 medley. Walsall’s youngest star, Ryan Bird, won the 12 year old’s 200m freestyle in 2:13.36 – a new championship best performance. In Masters events there were wins for Valda Davies in the 50m breaststroke and Darren Dyke in the 50m freestyle.