It’s thought that Plymouth Leander was originally known as Plymouth Ladies' Swimming Club. It had a group of beach huts, the Hoe Huts, near Leander Steps, on Plymouth Hoe and members took a dip in the sea pool. That was in the late 1950s or early 60s and from such humble beginnings the club has morphed into the swimming super power it is today.
From such a small start the club grew in size to cover a range of aquatic pastimes - from swimming and synchro to diving, life saving and water polo and always had an early learner pool.
Coaches like Bill Miller, Jim Parker, Keith Meredith and Sue Butler were names synonymous with the club at the time.
Most training was at Ballards, just off Union Street – the main stay of the club - with other sessions at Central Park and Seaton Barracks.
In the late 1980s/90s the then committee decided the club needed a professional coach and it was then that Jon Rudd - from the Port of Plymouth (POP) club - first emerged on the scene.
From the mid 1990s, with Jon Rudd installed as its chief coach, the club thrived. The focus turned towards swimming at the expense of other watersports as the club nurtured a growing number of county, regional, national and international athletes.
Among them Olympian Antony “AJ” James. “The club had, at its core, a sense of family, ambition and a love of swimming that was unmatched in other clubs,” he remembers. “Over the years these qualities propelled the club upwards, increasing it in size and strength”.
It won its first Devon Interclubs in 1999 and made the Speedo League Regional Final - both massive achievements for the club at the time. It also had two national medalists in Giles Herman and James Edmonds who, AJ says, were the idols for the next generation of PL swimmers.
In 2001, the partnership with Plymouth College began. When the three other Plymouth pools were knocked down, PL found a new home at the college. The new 25m pool provided a training base with access to gym facilities and more pool time.
Swimmers began to come from far afield to join the “Blue Army” and over the next few years the club produced champions at every level.
While the club’s roots remain deeply engrained in Plymouth College, the opening of Plymouth Life Centre in 2012 offered even greater opportunities with the 50 metre pool.
Without doubt one of Plymouth Leander’s finest moments was that year, at London 2012, when 15 year old PL swimmer and Plymouth College schoolgirl Ruta Meilutyte won Olympic gold in 100m breaststroke for her homeland Lithuania. By the time she was 17, the teenager was the first and only swimmer in history to win all junior and senior international swimming championships at least once.
Plymouth Leander was well and truly on the swimming map!
Rudd left PL early in 2017 to head up Swim Ireland and replaced by his deputy Robin Armayan who has since appointed an impressive coaching team beneath him. Among his team two Olympians Roberto Pavoni and Antony James.
In the summer of 2017 the club celebrated more homegrown international success at the World Championships in Budapest - as Ben Proud became World Champion in 50m butterfly! He also took bronze in the 50m freestyle.