Modest Mal takes the prize as pool’s lap legend

Dickson Aquatic Centre Lap Legends, from left, Sarah Bunker, Craig Johns, John Fleming, Hannah Hobson, Ben Carmody, winner Mal Wilson, Jenny Kitchen, Peter Haynes, Sasha Basic, Stuart Godley, Jill Pettiffer, Mark French, Jane McCallum, Jenny Weir and Ben Buchler. Photo by Carl Davies

UP at dawn to swim several kilometres most mornings, the Dickson Aquatic Centre Lap Legends log their laps over the outdoor swim season for the health benefits, the sunrises and the camaraderie.

Lap Legends is a voluntary, honesty-based competition run by the pool to encourage the locals to record their laps for the season, says managing director Chris Graham, who brought it to Dickson in 2002 when he saw a similar activity run at a pool in Victoria.

“I saw a board they had up and prizes were given for certain kilometres, so from there I developed my own version of it,” says Chris.

“It started off that at a certain point you’d get a free coffee or a pair of goggles and from that it evolved into a community-oriented event at the end of the season.

“Originally, I had this big board with kilometres on for places around Canberra, so people would try to reach those destinations. From there it developed a bit of a cult following!

“It’s been a thing that brings people together and inspires them to keep going, because they’re writing it down every day. The last three weeks of the season people get a lot more motivated!

“It’s not about being the best, but it’s about being the best that you can.”

The season ended in mid-March and this year’s winner, Mal Wilson, who’s been competing in Lap Legends since it started, clocked up 388 kilometres this year.

Chris Graham… “It’s not about being the best, but it’s about being the best that you can.” Photo by Carl Davies

“Chris and Shay, who run the pool, sponsor some swanky prizes that are given away at the Lap Legend party at the end of the year,” he says.

“If you don’t do at least 77.7 kilometres by the season’s end you don’t make the cut for the party, so an extraordinary number of people swim about 80 kilometres.”

Although he’s the current Lap Legend, Mal, 56, humbly points out that “I am not worthy”.

“Previous Lap Legends have clocked up figures like 716 kilometres, though that requires you to be a Commonwealth Games gold medallist, like Marty Roberts two years back, but I managed only a paltry 388 kilometres,” he says.

“Given my advancing years and my three shoulder reconstructions, it’s certainly a commendable effort but in most other years it would have had me well off the podium.

“All the guys I swim with are very definitely morning people and are fun to be around,” he says.

“The idea of recording total laps swum is brilliant as it gives you some kind of target to chase for the season.

“There has always been a huge amount of banter and even the odd good-natured sledge, but fundamentally we’re all there for our health, the beautiful clear water, the stunning sunrises and, for many, the coffee and chat afterwards.  

“Some of the people are ocean swimmers and if you go to an ocean swim at the south coast it would be a very rare occasion indeed where three or four of the award winners were not from the Dickson Aquatic Centre fast lane.”

Anyone who fancies their chances as a Lap Legend will have to wait until the next swimming season when the Dickson Aquatic Centre reopens in late October.

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