Obituary: Clive Rushton

Date published: 12 June 2017

The swimming community far and wide across the world is in mourning as the news ripples out that Rochdale born coach Clive Rushton has died. In September 1966, Clive became the first Rochdale swimmer to appear in a nationals final.

A coach, educator and mentor in Great Britain, Canada, Greece, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, an Olympic swimmer for Britain at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Clive was 69. He had been battling cancer since a tumour was discovered in his neck in December 2016.

He died at home in Bali, Indonesia, where he lived with his wife Martini.

Clive’s son and fellow coach Tom Rushton paid tribute to his father, he said: “Over Christmas we found a large tumour in his neck (C2) that broke his C1 vertebrae on 23 December.

“With the support from Glenmark Aquatic‏ Foundation and his wife, Martini, he was able to return to Mumbai from Vancouver and have this operated on and assessed. From there it was determined that the initial cancer was gastrointestinal and that chemotherapy was needed. He had just completed 18 weeks of this. He was able to return to his family in Bali for most of the treatments and was cared for day and night at home for the most part. He passed away peacefully at home in his sleep early in the morning of 12 June.

At each competition I’ve been to this year the support from the swim coaching community has been wonderful. We’d like to thank the Glenmark Aquatic Foundation for their unwavering support during his fight with cancer over the last six months. And personally thanks to James Gibson and the Energy Standard team for their understanding as I was able to be with him earlier this week in Bali which was wonderful.

“We will likely have a small celebration of his life on the weekend in Bali. If anyone would like to share stories, pictures or any other memories they can contact me via email or Twitter and I will share with the family.”

Among the first tributes to him was that from the British Swimming Coaches Association which send condolences to Clive’s family. Head of the BSCA Brian McGuinness said: “A little bit of Rochdale and a massive part of the swimming world died overnight. RIP Clive Rushton.”

Nick Gillingham, world-record setter and Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth podium placer, paid the following tribute to Clive: “Thank you Clive Rushton for the knowledge and wisdom you shared with me over the many many years. The famous photograph will remain on my staircase. A captivating voice and simply a great man. My thoughts are with his family. Rest In Peace Clive and thank you again.”

Emma Swanwick, a coaching colleague, wrote the following tribute: “Very very sad to hear of the parting of my very good friend and amazing master coach and coaching director Clive rushton. We colluded on many projects and your input will be greatly missed. Rest with peace my friend.

“He was just a good guy. Heart of gold, beautiful mind, great sense of humour and a mind of swimming that few can rival. We shared so many good times so many great moments fantasic ideas and some incredible outcomes. I certainly wont find another with who i can connect and communicate with so well. I am going to miss him so much.”

A Swimming Life – Clive Rushton

Clive Rushton was born in Rochdale. The town has one of the oldest swimming clubs in the world.

Clive, who captained the GB swimming team at the Olympic Games in Munich and raced in the 100m backstroke, was among its achievers alongside Commonwealth Games gold medal winner Christine Gaskell and Channel swimmer Joe Smith.

In September 1966, Clive became the first Rochdale swimmer to appear in a nationals final. In a tribute to the swim club a decade ago, the Rochdale Observer noted: “He finished equal fifth in the ASA Championships in Blackpool. A year later Rushton made history by winning all the men’s events in the Rochdale SC championships. By the end of the decade Rushton was the English 220-yard and 110-yard backstroke titles holder, and he was also chosen to swim for GB. He was Rochdale’s first national swimming champion.”

“The 1970s saw the continued rise of Clive Rushton, but there was also Christine Gaskell. Rushton, a Lancashire champion, finished fifth in the 200m backstroke of the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. In 1972 he broke an English record in the Northern Counties Short-Course Championships, and he smashed another English record in the GB championships held in Grimsby.

“Two weeks later he again broke the English 100m backstroke record during a five-nations event in Rome, and this qualified him for the GB team for the Munich Olympics. Rushton reached the semi-finals in Munich where he was captain of the GB swimming team. Only months later he announced his retirement from competitive swimming, at the age of 25, after 10 years at the top.

He then qualified as a physical education teacher, then as a tutor and assessor for the ASA in England. He achieved a Master’s degree in Leading Innovation and Change from York St. John University in England. Along the way he worked in leading performance roles as a coach and mentor in Great Britain, Greece and New Zealand. As a coach in Britain his clubs won national age-group and senior team titles. In his time on deck, he guided around 200 international swimmers, including Olympic medallists and world record holders. He was a member of the national-team staff at the 1987 European Junior Championships, Seoul Olympic Games in 1988, at the 1989 European Championships, among many other international tours and competitions.

International coaching and sports medicine clinics were a regular haunt for Clive, both as a presenter with something to teach and a man who never stopped learning.

If he witnessed and had significant things to say about many world records and great swimming moments down the years, the strings to his bow stretched to deeper understanding. One of the papers he wrote for the American Swimming Coaches Association, entitled “When Strategy Usurps Planning” earned widespread acclaim.

His writings, included “Swimformation” and a book and poster on “the interaction of biomechanics and physiology in swimming”, with a graphic depiction that was described as”

“The ultimate coaches’ cheat-sheet” and “a whole textbook on one sheet of paper”.

He moved to Canada in 1990 working as Technical Director to the world-class, Pacific Dolphin Association and, later, joined Swim BC, the provincial governing body of British Columbia, as Director of Swimming Excellence. Among many other international appointments, Clive has been appointed as Head Coach, Coach or Team Manager to F.I.S.U. , Commonwealth and Olympic Games, as well as European and World Championships.

Clive served as national coach to Greece in the 1990s and was twice awarded the Greek sports medal of coaching distinction, in 1996 and in 1997. The bronze medal, won by World-Cup winner, Dimitris Maganas in the 1996 European Short-course Championships, was Greece’s first ever medal at major international championships.

In recent years, Clive, as technical director of the Glenmark Aquatic Foundation, put much energy into improving swimming standards in India.

Clive is survived by his wife Martini Rushton, his sons Tom and Elliot, his daughter Hannah Rushton, step-children Xena Rushton (14) and Tya Rushton (12) and his mother, Irene, who is 96.

Obituary courtesy of SwimVortex:

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