Image of the gates of Liverpool Cathedral

Steve Parry

Oration

Presented by: Professor Frank Sanderson

Honorable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Stephen Parry for the award of an Honorary Fellowship of Liverpool John Moores University.  

Steve Parry, double Olympian and medal winner in the 200m Butterfly at the Athens Olympics and the Manchester Commonwealth Games, has come a long way in the last two decades. 

He went on a barge trip on the Thames when he was 8 years old, and after falling off the barge and nearly drowning, he decided it would be a good idea to learn to swim. This he did at Woolton Swimming Baths in South Liverpool, before progressing to the Liverpool Penguins and City of Liverpool clubs. By the age of 12, he was in serious training, and over the next few years, he accumulated 17 medals at the National Age Group Championships. Somehow, he still found the time and energy to represent his school at cricket and basketball.  

Steve was born in Liverpool in 1977, the second son of David and Pauline Parry from Allerton - where Steve was brought up and where he lives today. He first attended Booker Avenue Junior School, followed by the Bluecoat School where his father had been a pupil. Although there was not a great sporting tradition in the family, Steve did benefit from the unconditional support from his parents as his swimming developed:  he is grateful for their commitment and sacrifice on taking him on trips to venues, regularly spending 5 hours with him by the poolside, day after day until he was 18.  

A typical week would encompass 70K in the pool, with an additional 10 hours of callisthenics, aerobics, plyometrics and weight training. Apart from his intrinsic motivation, he also benefited from sibling rivalry, and can well remember the first time he beat his brother David - who, incidentally, holds the world record for swimming from Ireland to Scotland.  

By the age of 16, his training became more intense, and this paid dividends the following year when he won events at the National Senior Championships and the Junior European Championships. Steve also did well academically, gaining 10 GCSEs and 4 A Levels. He considered British universities, but in the days before lottery funding was available for promising athletes, he quickly opted for the Sports Scholarship offered by Florida State University from the 150 offers he received from America. 

There he studied Marketing and Finance, but with the added advantage of continuing his swimming with world-class coaching, facilities and competition. He was so successful that he followed in the footsteps of David Wilkie and Duncan Goodhew by winning at the National Collegiate Championships. He was disappointed to follow this up with a 4th place at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.  

Four years later in Athens, Steve's professionalism and great leadership qualities made him the obvious choice as GB Swimming Team Captain in what proved to be a memorable Olympics for him. First he beat Michael Phelps in the semi-final of the 200metre Butterfly race, becoming one of only three people in the world to beat him. Then in the Final, he finished in bronze medal position with a British and Commonwealth record time. He describes the medal ceremony with the Union Jack blowing in the breeze as the most unbelievable experience of his life.

As well as his Olympic medal Steve has also won World and European Championship medals and three Commonwealth medals during his distinguished career.   Having achieved his Olympic dream in a very competitive sport, Steve then decided to retire. The National Performance Director Bill Sweetenham, noting that he would be a hard act to follow as captain, praised him for his leadership qualities, and his sheer persistence and resilience over a long and demanding career.

In retirement, Steve is now applying his sharp focus to new ventures, with a particular determination to stay involved with swimming in order to share his knowledge with young swimmers and help provide guidance and support for the Olympic stars of the future. In the last 2 years, he has established what is already a successful business, Total Swimming, aimed at raising the profile of swimming across the UK.  

One of his ambitious projects in conjunction with United Utilities is to place small swimming pools in 6 primary schools in the NW and teach all the children to swim, and within a term. Already, 700 children at Norman Pannell Primary School in South Liverpool have learned to swim through this project. His value as a sports ambassador is recognised in many ways: 

  • He is a Sport England board member 
  • He is a 2012 Ambassador - attending events to promote the London Olympics 
  • He is an ambassador to the ""Say No to Drugs"" campaign 
  • He is president of the Lancashire-based Gallica Swimming Club
  • He is a regular presenter on Radio Merseyside and a swimming commentator on BBC 
  • He is an advocate for the School Ford Trust which promotes healthy eating 
  • He is a consultant to ""Raise the Bar"", working closely with former Olympic high jumper Steve Smith
  • And along with a number of high-profile Olympians, including Steve Redgrave, he has raised substantial funds for Alder Hey Children's Hospital  

Steve Parry is one of the finest British swimmers ever, sustaining over a decade of achievement at the highest level. Once a role model for his fellow swimmers, he now takes his inspirational thoughts on motivation and team success not only to new generations of swimmers but also to business leaders in the corporate world.    

Today, we are pleased to recognise his past and continuing achievements. 

Thus I have great pleasure in presenting Stephen Benjamin Parry, this most distinguished son of our region, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.