Clarendon aquatic centre honours icon

GLOBAL RECOGNITION: The Harrison Aquatic Centre is a World Aquatics internationally accredited facility that can be utilised for swimming, rowing and waterpolo. Pictures: SUPPLIED

After a year of construction, Clarendon Schools has opened the doors to its new aquatic centre, named in honour of Joan Harrison Breetzke and intended to develop aquatic sport across the city.

A collaboration between Clarendon High School for Girls, Clarendon Primary School and Clarendon Prep, the Harrison Aquatic Centre is a World Aquatics internationally accredited facility that can be utilised for swimming, rowing and water polo.

The facility’s versatility extends to hosting district, provincial and national short course gala’s which will enable the centre to play an integral role in promoting Buffalo City as a hub for aquatic sports excellence.

Plans for the facility were approved by the school governing body in 2022 and it was funded by the Clarendon Trust.

Swimming SA president Alan Fritz heralded East London swimming and water polo excellence this year as a testament to the city’s return towards claiming its place as the heart of water sport excellence in the country. The Harrison facility is expected to building on this momentum.

Christened the Harrison Aquatic Centre East London, the school has set steep goals for its water sports development including empowering under resourced schools with access to the facility and coaching of basic water safety skills. Clarendon Schools has already partnered with Noncedo Secondary School from Ducats and aims to see more schools benefit.

Named in honour of a champion, the facility hopes to stand as a testament to the grit and determination that underpins Joan Breetzke nee Harrison who was the first SA woman to win Olympic gold in the 1952 games in Helsinki.

Born in 1935, Harrison Breetzke celebrates her birthday this month on November 29 and at only 14, she was competing internationally and claimed two golds, a silver and a bronze at the 1954 British Empire Games in Vancouver, Canada.

She also won gold in the 440-yard freestyle and bronze in the 110-yard freestyle at the 1950 meet in Auckland.

In a statement, the school said the Harrison Centre would contribute towards creating an environment where pupils were encouraged to overcome obstacles, challenge stereotypes and build resilience.

Clarendon Primary School for Girls principal Jay Albansini said the completion of the facility enhanced the opportunities Clarendon Schools’ pupils had access to and interaction with the facility will remind the pupils of the inspirational career Breetzke has had and of their own capacity to build a legacy that inspires others.

Clarendon High School for Girls principal Julie Patrick said: “This project is a celebration of our Clarendon Schools’ collaborative approach and unified vision, to provide a quality, holistic experience to all our girls.

“We are truly honoured that Joan Harrison Breetzke’s name will live on in our schools’ history and her legacy will be inspiration to all our girls to dream big.”

Harrison Breetzke’s son, Derek said his mother was honoured to be remembered in this way by the schools despite her achievements having been earned many years ago. Derek said: “As a family we hope that the centre will inspire the champions of the future to aim high and put East London water sports on the map.”


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