Catherine Brown was always destined to take to the water – her father worked at the local swimming baths and her brothers were heavily involved in water polo. She went on to enjoy a 16-year career in the pool, winning three European Championship medals and an Olympic bronze and breaking 29 UK swimming records.
Growing up in Motherwell, Catherine’s dedication saw her become a member of the British swimming team in 1947 aged just 16. Competing in her first European Championships that year, she returned from Monte Carlo with silver medals in the 400m freestyle and 100m backstroke and bronze in the 4x100m freestyle relay.
With the Olympics less than a year away, she then continued to train for eight hours a day, despite having a full-time job as a clerk to help support her family.
These straitened circumstances meant her family couldn’t afford to travel to London to see her compete in the 1948 Olympic Games, where won bronze in the 400m freestyle. It was Britain’s only swimming medal at the Games and afterwards Catherine said she might have done better had her father been able to cheer her on at the Wembley Empire Pool.
Catherine continued swimming throughout the 1950s, breaking numerous records along the way. After retiring, she became a hotelkeeper. She died in 2013 aged 82.
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