Friday, November 9, 2012

Perc Edwards - A Fond Farewell To The World's Most Passionate Swimmer

In life we are infrequently blessed to meet just a handful of people whose passion deeply inspires us. For me one of those people was Percy "Perc" Edwards who sadly passed away last week at the ripe old age of 87, having just won 12 gold medals at the Australian Masters Swimming Championships only the week before. Perc had also just been awarded the highly coveted "Groper of the Month" by his club Cottesloe Crabs and last year joined the exclusive Aussie Masters Five Million Meters club!

Percy's passing was unexpected but totally fitting at the same time, being that he'd just completed another swim session at the Claremont Pool where Swim Smooth is based (featured in last week's blog). I was personally there when Perc passed, having just been discussing his accomplishments with him (which he loved to do) not 20 minutes before. I had been admiring his latest medal haul which he was carrying around in a Coles plastic shopping bag! As everyone agrees over here in the WA swimming community, it was a fitting farewell to such a beloved character and something the world's most passionate swimmer might have scripted for himself. 

I first met Perc when I arrived in Perth in 2002 from the UK. He was one of the first people to come over and chat with the new "pommie" on the swimming circuit down at what has grown to become my favourite race, the 2.2km Cottesloe to Swanbourne swim. Always friendly and always ready to tell a story, Perc was a real character and I remember being amazed at how well a 77 year old was competing against the young guns in the tough ocean conditions. 

Although he had been swimming since he was a child, Perc often said that after the loss of his wife Mary 21 years ago, it was swimming that kept his zest for life going. He lived an amazing life - as a young 18 year old flew as a navigator on bombers over Germany during WWII, had been a butcher, an accountant, was made a lifetime member of the Claremont Masters Group in 2004, and was a highly regarded swimming race referee of 30 years for Swimming WA, always immersing himself totally in the sport. His zest for swimming and life in general was staggeringly inspirational and infectious to all around him.

Back in 2004 when we released the first Swim Smooth DVD, I discussed just how important it is to find enjoyment within your swimming to help motivate you to get down to the pool and make progress with your technique, fitness and open water skills. Sadly over the years we have seen so many athletes getting into swimming but seeing it only as a necessary evil to complete a triathlon event. This proves to be a huge barrier to progress for so many people. If you have ever felt this way yourself, I just hope that you can take an ounce of inspiration from Perc by getting down to the pool and having a lightness and positivity in your attitude towards your swimming. Keep a smile on your face and enjoy being immersed in the water for all the positive benefits it brings you. 

Swimming is truly a fantastic sport to be involved with and doesn't have to be the chore that you may feel it to be right now. Find just one thing that you enjoy about being in the water and every session make sure you start and finish with that element. Perc used to love diving down to the bottom of the pool and playing around like a kid - maybe this was what kept him so youthful and positive in his later years? Maybe this same thing will be what keeps you coming back for more and with that consistency your swimming will improve.

Perc had three children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He will be sadly missed within our local swimming community in Perth and no doubt much wider afield as well. Personally I feel blessed to have known and been inspired by such an amazing person over the last 10 years and I will miss our poolside banter tremendously.

Thank you Perc for all the memories and for fuelling my own passion for swimming.

Paul

Paul Newsome
Swim Smooth Head Coach

12 comments:

Ruben Skov said...

Dear Paul, your email/post really touched me.

And reminded me of the important thing - the joy factor in swimming.

Thanks much for sharing!

Kathy McKnight said...

What a lovely remembrance of what sounds like an amazing person! I work every day to inspire such comments :) Thank you for sharing Perc's amazing story with those who were not lucky enough to know him!

Karl said...

My condolences to all of u who new Perc. He sounded like an amazing person.

Colin McNeill said...

What a fantastic post!!! The enthusiasm and positive way you speak about your friend gives us all a glimpse of what a GREAT BLOKE he sounded I'm sure your swim community and all that knew him will feel a sad loss. R.I.P. Perc.

Ken MacDonald said...

Very uplifting story and great advice for those who may be forgetting the joys of swimming. Thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

I also want to swim until my last day... and afterwards: meet Perc and have a talk with him.

Rainer, Vienna/Austria

Phil S said...

As an age-group tri-athlete who enjoys swimming, this is a great story. We can go on for as long as we feel up to it. Swim hats off to Perc! He has shown us the way and I'm sure you'll all miss him. RIP.

Wardo said...

Unreal timing. I literally just told my wife that I decided not to go for a swim today because I didn't feel like it. Instead, I decided to check email. Your blog about Perc was the first thing I read. Thank-you for bringing things back into perspective. What a priviledge to have the opportunity to swim. My condolences for your loss in Perc. He has inspired many around the world, myself included. Thank-you for sharing.

Peipster said...

So nice to read, Paul. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

So sorry for your loss. But on the other hand you should be happy for Perc who lived his life to the fullest and died doing what he loved most. As a tribute listen to this song: Young at Heart
It was the favorite song of Johnny Kelly, who was a Bostonian marathoner that won the Boston marathon twice and continued to ran the race until his 84th birthday and lived to the age of 97.

P.S. I am another age-group triathlete who loves swimming. I am slow but I lived in it for nine months, same as everyone else!

Geoff Ivanac said...

A fitting tribute to a generous, kind and passionate man.

Perc proved that it is all about the journey and not how quickly you get there. Perc his peak just before he passed.

As the swimmers gather together for the start of another ocean swim, one familiar face will not be there anymore, however he will always be remembered.

Angelina Talbot said...

His story's pretty inspiring! I love swimming and now I'm motivated to practice more, but the problem is that, my mom had pool covers installed in our backyard pool, ever since my cousin had a drowning accident. It's quite hard for me to take them off, but I do understand that they're just trying to keep me safe. I'll still practice anyway, and one day, I'll be as good as this guy. Thanks for sharing the story!