WOKING swimmers won gold medals galore when they represented Great Britain at the World Aquatics Masters Championships in Japan.

The championships featured artistic swimming, diving, open-water swimming, pool swimming and water polo, and were held in three cities – Fukuoka, Kumamoto and Kagoshima.

The swimming events took place at the Marina Messe and Fukuoka Nishi swimming centres in Fakuoka directly after the Fina World Aquatics Championships. 

More than 10,000 athletes, from 100 nations, took part in a competition that was delayed by 12 months because of ongoing concerns around the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The swimming was the fastest meet in masters history, demonstrating the talent at the championships. 

Some 33 world records were broken. This tied the all-time record for the most broken in one championship meet, set in Riccione, Italy, in 2012. 

The competition in Japan saw 132 championship records set.

Woking swimmers in action were Michelle Ware, Jennie Clarke, Jerry O’Riordan, Mike Hodgson and David Bryant. 

They carry out most of their training at Woking Pool in the Park and Eastwood Leisure Centre.

Woking Swimming Club masters spokesman Catherine Ferguson said: “They were simply outstanding in their swimming results, racking up a phenomenal number of personal bests, medals, championship records and Great Britain, European and world records.”

Ware competed in the category for women aged 50 to 54. She brought home four individual gold medals and one silver medal, and set two British records and a championship record.

It took a former Olympic champion, Australian Susie O’Neill, to pip Ware to the gold medal in the 50m butterfly.

O’Neill competed at the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, winning eight medals, including individual gold in the 200m butterfly in 1996 and the 200m freestyle in 2000.

Ware’s results were: gold in the 100m freestyle in a British record; gold in the 100m butterfly in a British record; gold in the 50m freestyle; gold in the 50m backstroke in a championships record; and silver in the 50m butterfly in a time of 29.60sec.

Hodgson swam in the section for men aged 55 to 59 and finished with four individual gold medals, one bronze medal and four British records, two European records and one championships record.

His results were: gold in the 100m breaststroke in a British record; gold in the 50m freestyle in a European and British record; gold in the 50m breaststroke in a British record; gold in the 50m freestyle in a championships, European and British record of 26.86sec; and bronze in the 50m backstroke.

Bryant, competing in the category for men aged 60 to 64, won four individual medals – two silvers and two bronzes – and set a British record. He narrowly missed out on a medal in every event he entered as he finished fourth in the 200m individual medley.

His results were: silver in the 50m breaststroke; silver in the 400m individual medley in a British record; bronze in the 100m breaststroke; bronze in the 200m breaststroke; and fourth in the 200m individual medley. 

Clarke raced in the class for women aged 35 to 39 and managed a top-eight finish in all of her swims. She just missed out on a medal in the 200m backstroke, where she finished fourth, but was rewarded with bronze in the gruelling 400m freestyle.

Her results were: bronze in the 400m freestyle; fourth in the 200m backstroke; sixth in the 200m breaststroke; sixth in the 200m freestyle; and eighth in the 100m breaststroke.

O’Riordan competed in the section for men aged 45 to 49, a highly competitive category, and was ranked in the top 20 in three of his four events.

His results were: 17th in the 100m freestyle; 19th in the 50m butterfly; 20th in the 50m freestyle; and 24th in the 50m breaststroke.

The Woking quartet of Clarke, Ware, Hodgson and Bryant were unbeaten on the world stage in both the 4 x 50m mixed medley relay and the 4 x 50m freestyle relay in the 200 to 239 combined-years category, bringing home gold in both events. 

Ferguson said: “The 4 x 50m freestyle relay saw Hodgson give the team a cracking start with a lead leg of 25.12sec, lowering his European record from the previous day. He was followed by Clarke and Ware in times of 28.58sec and 27.52 sec respectively, before Bryant swam a final leg of 27.81sec. 

“The 4 x 50m medley saw Ware produce an impressive backstroke leg of 31.96sec, with Bryant – on breaststroke – and Hodgson – on butterfly – then handing on to Clarke to bring home the second relay gold. Their time was just outside their own world record.”

Ware said: “The World Championships did not disappoint. The Woking team did amazingly well, winning lots of medals and setting records and personal-best times. 

“One of my personal highlights was racing ex-Olympian Susie O’Neill in the 50m butterfly. It was a close race and for a moment I think I had her worried.

“I’d like to thank the coaches and the club for their continued support of this growing masters squad.”

Hodgson said: “The relays are always a lot of fun and a special day with a superb atmosphere. We were only ranked second in both relays to a very strong Japanese team going into the races, so we all needed to perform at our best to take both golds.

“On an individual basis, I had my best-ever haul at a World Championships, breaking a number of European and British records in the process. 

“It’s a great feeling when all the training we put in turns into success at the main events of the year.”

Meanwhile, Hodgson last year managed to beat his goal of setting/breaking his 100th British masters record in his swimming career – and it now stands at 114. 

Woking’s masters coach Seb Leather said: “I’m incredibly proud of what this group have achieved at the World Championships. 

“The squad were dominant at national level this year. But then to perform at this level against the best in the world truly shows the talent we have at Woking. 

“It is impressive what the whole squad have achieved in the time they have been at Woking, both in swimming, open-water swimming, triathlons and beyond.” 

Ferguson added: “What a truly incredible set of results on this international stage.

“The club are incredibly proud of the whole masters squad. 

“Their dedication to the sport and the club is simply outstanding and a fabulous example to the age-group swimmers of where the sport can take you in years to come.”