THEY have stood the test of time and been swimming as long as Southampton has been a city.

The City of Southampton Swimming Club (CSSC) is nearing its 50th birthday and members are preparing for a reunion to celebrate tonight.

The club has produced hundreds of talented swimmers, including Olympian Gary Abraham.

Starting in 1963 at the Central Baths, head coach Derek Snelling brought early success to the club, producing Olympians and international champions like Dave Haller, Alan Kimber, Keith Bewley and Ray Terrell.

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But when Dave Haller took over as coach in 1967, the club began to soar and won five national club titles and two European club championships.

CSSC swimming heroes included Olympians Malcolm O’Connell, Colin Cunning-ham and Ray Terrell and gold medallists for the Commonwealth Games like Viv Davies, Ian Hughes, Gary Abraham, Linda Hill, Michelle Crook and Di Lansley.

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Malcolm O'Connell receiving the National League Trophy in 1974

Gary Abraham then became renowned worldwide for winning an Olympic bronze medal at the Moscow Olympics in 1980.

And Ricky Burrell won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games and swam at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

The club continued to compete, producing swimmers like Adrian Mackay, Lorraine Coombes, Sean Williamson, Tricia Loveman and Mark Jones, who all swam internationally.

But in 1992 the city was shaken by news that the council were closing the Central Baths with no replacement, forcing the club to move elsewhere and lose their facilities.

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Colin Cunningham, Malcolm O'Connell and Rey Terrell on the day they were chosen for the Olympics.

For seven years swimmers had to use smaller pools across Southampton and many members moved on, but after rallying for support, CSSC re-opened at Centre 2000, where it has been going from strength to strength.

With the guidance of head coach Dave Terry, the club sent two swimmers, Chris Jones and Gail Stockbridge, to the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

The club has also welcomed the return of their professional swimmers as coaches, with Gary Abraham at Eastleigh, Steve Harrison at Totton and Romsey, Dave Perry at Shirley and Alan Ayles at Red Lodge.

And there is also a strong junior section and multi-medal-winning masters section, featuring national cha-mpion Lorraine Coombes.

Ricky Burrell, 55, who organised the reunion, said: “Growing up the club was a major part of my life. Everyone was proud to be a member there and I still see people now that I met on my first day.

“It’s a thriving club and an integral part of the city by teaching people to swim.”

The event will be at the Holiday Inn, opposite The Quays in Southampton, and starts at 7.30pm.

Anyone wishing to attend can email Ricky on