Judith Wright – 45 Years of Service to Swimming

If you are interested in seeing a fascinating slice of New Zealand swimming history visit the Waterhole Swimming Pool in Parrs Park, Henderson. On the back wall of the club rooms you will see about 20 carefully framed New Zealand national open record certificates. Each one is a record set by the pool’s owner, Judith Wright. The reason they have historical significance is because several certificates represent milestones in the progress of New Zealand swimming. Every record is worthy of praise. But some records stand out in sporting history more than others. Roger Bannister’s four minute mile is probably the best example. Dawn Fraser breaking a minute for 100 freestyle was also historic. The next big one will be breaking two hours for the men’s marathon.

Mixed in among the Judith Wright record certificates you will find two of major importance. You see Judith Wright was the first woman in New Zealand to swim below five minutes for 400 freestyle and below ten minutes for 800 freestyle. I was swimming back in the days when those records were set. To say none of us thought a New Zealand woman would swim that fast was not far from the truth. Judith’s swimming lifted New Zealand women’s swimming. Every swimmer who followed had a higher bar to reach because of Judith Wright.

Judith’s career after swimming was equally ground breaking. She got involved in learn-to-swim and coaching. Nothing ground breaking about that, you may be saying. Except Judith took it a step further and built her own Parrs Park pool. That was back in the days when women were not supposed to show that sort of initiative, that sort of enterprise, that sort of courage.

Ever since Judith and Gwen Ryan have run their enormously successful business from the pool. Several years ago I attended a finance course at the London School of Economics (LSE). Many readers may know that the LSE’s reputation for academic learning is right up with Harvard and Yale. One of our business studies tutors was well known for his complicated mathematical formulas used to measure business success. Toward the end of the course he said how pleased he was that we had learned the importance of debt, equity, inventory and the time value of money. But he said the real measure of business success was not hidden in mathematical formulas. The most difficult measure, the bar many businesses fail to clear, was just to survive. That was the real test of business success. Judith Wright and Gwen Ryan have passed my LSE tutor’s test in full measure. Not only that, they are carefully transferring responsibility for the business to a new generation. Mohammed Ali’s famous quote, “You done splendid” applies perfectly to Judith’s swimming and business careers.

But the Waterhole business has done more than survive. A dozen national champions have learned their trade in the Waterhole pool. From women’s 50 freestyle to men’s 10k open water Judith has coached them all. Her success is based on “old-fashioned” values. And there is nothing wrong with that. Just ask Dick Tonks, Arch Jelley and Steve Hansen. They might not know some of the finer points of swimming but they would sure know and approve of the way Judith Wright goes about her coaching job.

Alison and I have known Judith for about eight years. Alison’s running career was founded on the best values of sport – hard work, honesty, courage and determination. It is hard to be an international athlete without those qualities. The downside though is the difficulty many have reaching the standards top athletes set for themselves. Alison has always recognised those standards and values in Judith. Her praise for Judith is total. And certainly in my dealing with Judith through some fairly stormy waters Judith has treated me with integrity and honesty. She is a rare gift in the swimming world.

I was delighted to hear that the Waterhole Club has decided to celebrate Judith’s career. No one deserves the recognition more. Set out below are the details of the planned occasion. I would recommend that anyone whose life has been touched by the Waterhole Club set aside anything else on 17 November and join Judith at the Falls Restaurant. It will be fun and is certainly well deserved.


The Waterhole Swim Club would like to Celebrate Judith Wright’s 45 years of Service to Swimming. We invite you to a Cocktail hour, starting at 6:00 PM, followed by 2-course dinner, Guest Speakers and Entertainment. Tickets are limited and selling fast – $80.00 per person + associated costs


Are there ID or minimum age requirements to enter the event?


What are my transport/parking options for getting to and from the event?

Off-street parking available

How can I contact the organizer with any questions?

021 999181 (Flo Hickey) OR waterholeswimclub@yahoo.co.nz

Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event?

Yes – sent to you via text

Is my registration fee or ticket transferrable?


Date and Time

Sat 17 November 2018

6:00 PM – 10:30 PM NZDT


The Falls Restaurant

22 Alderman Drive


Auckland, Auckland 0645

0 responses. Leave a Reply

  1. Swimwatch


    Be the first to leave a comment!

Comments are closed.