International – Swimming – Tri Nations Competition

The Inter-Country Speed Swimming Contest (Bologna Trophy)

In 1927, a British team of swimmers and water polo players was invited to Bologna, Italy to compete in the European Championships. Great Britain won the women's 400 metres freestyle relay and the team was presented with a fine trophy by the Italian Swimming Federation.

As the team consisted of two English (Joyce Cooper, M.Lavery), one Welsh (Valerie Davies) and one Scottish (Ellen King) swimmer, each home association had a claim to the trophy. It was decided that the cup should be awarded annually to the winner of a speed swimming competition between the three home countries.

It was agreed that a representative fixture would help to raise the standard of speed swimming in all countries by motivating swimmers to train harder and helping them to “gain experience and confidence in their own powers.” Formal proposals were presented to three home associations in 1928. They were unanimously approved.

The Inter-Country General Purposes Committee which had been established to ratify British native records took responsibility for the contest.

1927 GB Bologna Cup Team

It was held annually except during Olympic year when it was replaced by final Olympic trials. After 1952 was also held in each Olympic year. Each country took it in turn to organise the fixture and retain any income. This was used to meet team expenses.   

There were ten “speed contests” for men and women:
100yds Freestyle, 400yds Freestyle, 200yds Breast Stroke, 150yds Back Stroke, 400yds Medley Team Race. The first competition took place in 1929 in Storie Street Baths, Paisley.

“To all who were privileged to witness this event, there can be little doubt that a more spectacular and exciting event has never been witnessed in swimming in Scotland.”

In a very close contest England beat Scotland 19-17. Wales was unable to provide a team but it competed in all subsequent events.

The following table gives a brief summary of Results:

Country First Second Third
England 30 2 0
Scotland 2 26 4
Wales 0 4 27

Scotland won the trophy at Aberdeen in 1950. The team was:

Men
J.C. Wardrop, Motherwell
R. Wardrop, Motherwell
A.T. Still, Gordonians
I.C. Spence, Gordonians

Women
M. Girvan, Motherwell
C. Gibson, Motherwell
M.G. McDowall, Kilmarnock
H.O. Gordon, Hamilton

Scotland repeated its success in the following year at Kilmarnock. The team was:

Men
J.C. Wardrop, Motherwell
I.O. Spence, Gordonians
R.S. Burns, Pullars
A.D. Kinnear, St Thomas

Women
M. Girvan, Motherwell
C. Gibson, Motherwell
M.G. McDowall, Kilmarnock
H.O. Gordon, Hamilton

The contest was discontinued in 1971, because other international competitions were arranged annually against suitable European teams.

The trophy was presented back to LEN by British Swimming at the 2004 LEN Congress in London