Doris Storey

Gold medal-winning swimmer who broke a world record

DORIS STOREY, the Leeds shopkeeper's daughter who broke a world swimming record and won two gold medals in the Sydney Empire Games of 1938, has died aged 86 at Bywater Lodge Nursing Home near Castleford.

Two years before the Empire Games and aged 17, she competed in the infamous Berlin Olympics.

Fastest in the heats, she was favourite to win a gold medal in the 200m breast stroke, but before the race she fell and injured her arm.

She insisted on swimming nevertheless, and to begin with was in the lead. The injury – it turned out to be a fracture – slowed her down, however, and she finished sixth.

It seems she caught the eye of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, who sent her an enormous invitation card to attend a summer ball. She did not go, but she kept the card.

During the three-week voyage to the Sydney Games, she and other members of the English team continued their training by swimming in the sea off the ship. On one occasion, an inquisitive dolphin was attracted and Doris, thinking it was a shark, seized hold of one of her team-mates and practically drowned him.

In Sydney she won the 220-yard breaststroke title, establishing a new world record, and her other gold medal was for being a member of the winning team in the women's relay.

Athletes in the 30s tended to be comfortably-off and middle-class, but Doris worked as a machinist at Burton's tailoring factory in Hudson Road, and she would complain of being teased and asked to repeat phrases and sentences in her "funny" Leeds accent.

If her self-esteem was knocked by the experience, it was soon restored by the enthusiastic welcome she received on her return home, when thousands turned out to greet her.

Until her visit to Berlin, the furthest she had been from home was Scarborough.

Her Yorkshire record for the 200m breaststroke remained until Anita Lonsborough of Huddersfield broke it in 1958.

Doris was a member of East Leeds Swimming Club, and during the week she trained early in the morning at York Road swimming baths before she began her shift at Burton's factory. At weekends she could use the baths at a more civilised hour when they were open to the public, and it was there she met Norman Quarmby who accompanied his little sister, Audrey, on her Sunday morning visits. He and Doris became friends, but at the outbreak of war their romance was put on hold when Norman joined the Royal Engineers. They married in December 1944.

Doris came second in trials in Scarborough for the London Olympic Games of 1948, but by then she had a two-year-old child, and the selectors rejected her, saying she had family commitments.

Norman's parents each owned a fish and chip shop; after the wedding, his father gave the couple the tiny shop he owned at East End Park in Osmondthorpe, Leeds.

Later they took over the other family shop, and although everyone in the area knew of her fame, she was far too modest to broadcast it. Norman died in 1982, aged 67.

Doris died just days after she had been honoured in her absence in Australia where her picture has been hung in the Hall of Fame at Sydney swimming pool.

On Thursday, the funeral cortege stopped outside the old York Road swimming baths. Doris leaves two sisters, her sons Ron and Brian, three grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.