Haywards Heath schoolgirl swimmer in 1980 Middy photo is still competing in marathon Mediterranean events

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A former Haywards Heath schoolgirl who helped win a swimming trophy with her classmates at age 11 is still making a splash...four decades later.

Melanie Barnes, as she was then, was pictured in the pool by the Middy in 1980 holding aloft one of the two cups won by Harlands School at the Mid-Sussex Swimming Gala at Oathall School.

She went on to represent the Dolphin Leisure Centre swimming team while a pupil at Warden Park school.

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Now Melanie, in her married name of Nightingale, is putting the strokes she learned there to good use in marathon Mediterranean events.

Melanie Nightingale, formerly Barnes, from Haywards Heath, is competing in marathon Mediterranean eventsMelanie Nightingale, formerly Barnes, from Haywards Heath, is competing in marathon Mediterranean events
Melanie Nightingale, formerly Barnes, from Haywards Heath, is competing in marathon Mediterranean events

And, in addition to the silverware she has won in recent years, she has just been awarded her first gold medal for her age-group victory over a ten-kilometre race off the South of France coast.

Her big moment came in the stamina-sapping Tour du Cap d’Antibes not far from her home near Cannes. She has competed in long-distance open sea races off Marseille, the Balearic island of Formentara, the Spanish Costa Brava village of Caduques and a series of French rivers and lakes. She has also completed swims twice around the Italian Riviera island of Bergeggi.

Melanie, whose brothers Nick, Mike and Jeff also attended the same Haywards Heath schools, will never forget the thrill of her first trophy, though.

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Melanie Barnes in 1980 holding up one of two cups won by Harlands SchoolMelanie Barnes in 1980 holding up one of two cups won by Harlands School
Melanie Barnes in 1980 holding up one of two cups won by Harlands School

She said: “We had a sports teacher called Glyn Turner who was fantastic and made Harlands a top school for athletics, football and cricket as well as swimming. It was there I first came to love swimming and, even now, I still get to train in the sea with friends most days.”

Melanie’s school pals who shared those magical moments in 1980 were Kevin Bennett, John Wheeler, Nicholas Brown, Philip Wemyss, Michael Dixon, Samantha Smythe, Vanessa Cox, Gail Eckford and Margaret Ferguson.

Melanie, who went on to throw the discus when Warden Park won a national schools athletics title, added: “It was Mr. Turner who inspired my love of sport. I also remember him playing Streets of London on his guitar. I play it to this day and think of him.”

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