Jim was born in 1938 in Kilmarnock and along with his sister joined the Club after WWII. By the time he was 11 years of age he was beginning to show great promise as a breast stroker. Coaching of strokes within the Club was in its infancy and Jim was guided along his early career like the other swimmers more on a hit or a miss basis. However this certainly did not deter Jim from becoming according to Jim Service (Scottish Champion and British Olympian of the time) “MacTaggart’s stroke is near perfect.” “And in him we feel we have our best prospects of British honours”.
Jim was not only a swimmer but he also played football and rugby for the school. In a recent interview with him Jim stated that it was not unknown for him to play rugby on a Saturday morning, play football in the afternoon and swim in Championships in the evening. It certainly did not deter him becoming Scottish Junior Champion in 1954 when he won the 100yds title in a time of 1 min 14.2 secs.
Later that year he gained his first National honour when he was selected to represent Scotland in a Junior International against England. He was joined in the team by fellow club member William (Billy) McCracken.
Prior to joining the army, Jim designed his training sessions to meet his aspirations to compete in the Scottish Championships. He trained like most swimmers during public sessions but was allowed to train 15 mins before and after the session giving him not only more water time but the chance to swim longer distance of 33.3 yards instead of the 14 yards in breadths. He was also seen to wear a harness in the water which was attached to the side of the pool by means of a rubber band. This allowed him to train in the pool when the public sessions were too busy which was often the case.
In 1954 he became the British Air Training Corp Champion for 100yds breast stroke. In 1955 he was selected to swim for the South of Scotland against the North of England in a swim meet which was televised at the Kilmarnock Pool in Aug 1955. He finished 3rd in the 200 yds breast stroke. He progressed his career even further over the next few years.
He was selected to represent Scotland in the Bologna Trophy in 1958 against England and Wales again televised at the Kilmarnock Pool. He became Scottish Senior Champion in 1959 when he won the 200yds breast stroke in a time of 2mins 32.9secs. He was chosen to compete for GB to swim in the Official Opening of the Rome Olympic Swimming Pool in a contest against Italy and Sweden.
When speaking to Jim recently I learned that despite all his Swimming success he still hurts deeply for not being chosen to represent Scotland or GB at the Commonwealth Games or the Olympics. At the time it was usual to send 2 representatives in each stroke in the games. In 1958 Jim had competed in trials for the Commonwealth Games, and was second, one tenth of a second behind the breaststroke winner. However that year they decided to send 3 backstrokers and one breaststroker, thereby eliminating him from the team.
In the Olympic Trials in 1960 the team was selected from the fastest swimmers overall in two heats. There was no final event, to pick the fastest swimmers from the best of the heat winners. Jim won his heat but the two fastest swimmers from the other heat were selected. He was disappointed that he did not get the chance to swim against the other two swimmers.
Jim retired from International competitive swimming after the Olympic Trials for the Rome Olympics. By this time he had been selected on six occasions to swim for Great Britain. This is not the end of his story however.
Jim continued to compete at local and national level. In 1967 he won the trial for the West of Scotland team for Breaststroke at the ripe old age of 29yrs. After the trial the selectors informed him that he had been selected…as reserve team swimmer for all strokes! On being asked why he had not been selected as a breastroker he was told he was “too old”. Jim left swimming for many years but his competitive instincts never left him.
He began cycling and running to keep himself fit and that along with his great aptitude for swimming he became at the age of 56 a triathlete. He has now competed in 76 dualathon , aquathlon or triathlon events all over the world. Dualathon is run-bike-run, aquathlon is run-swim-run and triathlon is swim-bike-run. In 2004 in his first International event he won the 65+ World Aquathlon Title in Madeira.
He has also cycled across America from Astoria, Oregon, to Yorktown Virginia in 2008. On the 1st May 2011 he left his home to Cycle not only across America again but also to cycle from Sydney to Perth once his American leg is completed.
What else can this man do………….only he knows…………I think!
He is no doubt a fine example to all those up and coming sportsmen and women. To keep in touch with Jim’s journey across American and Australia you can visit his Blog on the Scottish Triathlon Web site at:
and put Jim MacTaggart into the site search engine.