Mrs Tara Bolling better known to most of us as the amazing “Aunty Tara” the legendary swimming coach of Bishop’s College who glided with grace & perfection through the water. She served her Alma mater with dedication and passion for over two decades.
My earliest recollections of swimming lessons was riding the bus to SSC on Mondays and Thursdays after school from the drive way outside of Peiris House, with both school bag and swim bag in hand. It was well after a year that I managed to overcome my fear of water and begin to keep afloat to sustain a dog paddle. I recall my first U9 event of “picking up spoons” where I didn’t get a single spoon, and in the subsequent year managed to secure three spoons while the others surfaced with at least half a dozen spoons in their hands. It was Aunty Tara’s patience, commitment and perseverance that brought me from this stage to developing a natural and elegant dolphin butterfly stroke (which the swimmers of my time still remember) to captaining the College swimming team, winning at the Sri Lanka Nationals, and securing a few Sri Lanka inter university records to my credit!
My vice-captain at that time, Shanthini shared a memory of her very first novices swim meet held at the Otter’s Club, which very well illustrates Aunty Tara. Her first event being the two lengths free style was held in the rain. She dived in and barely passing the flags, just turned back and got out of the pool. The second event being the back-stroke event and that too after completing half a length she flipped over and continued to complete the race doing the front crawl. Her third entry being breast stroke, although she completed it, the finish was with a single hand touch and she was disqualified. Yet Aunty Tara never gave up on her! She saw the talent in Shanthini who became a graceful breaststroker finally captaining her school!
Many of us at BC have very fond memories of our swimming lessons at the SSC pool (since we didn’t have a pool of our own then). Aunty Tara had a special eye for every eager swimmer. She would skillfully clasp her palms to squirt water at kids who were not attentive during her classes. She was very committed to making a swimmer out of each of her pupils. She never gave up on anyone and that was her key desire.
I also remember very vividly Aunty Tara’s simple mode of transport – her push bike with the cane basket in front which held our swimming books and entries. She would cycle from her home in 5thLane to school pedaling her two-wheeler to Boyd Place. We would often meet her in the school office to skillfully and strategically work out the swimming entries for our teams. She was the meticulous mind behind those entries that brought many swim accolades to the school. Aunty Tara’s definition of competition was so real. In her view our competition was not the person swimming alongside us at the meets, but ‘the stop watch’ was our only competition. It therefore meant that our sole aim should be to beat the clock!! How true – it did not matter to her if we won places at the swim events. All Aunty Tara was interested in was that we improve our own timings at every event and achieve our personal best!
Her technique of style be it front crawl, breast stroke, back stroke or the dolphin butterfly was an epitome of perfection. She put every effort and was very particular in delivering the correct technique of strokes but yet extremely patient in awaiting the results!
With these basic principles she achieved much for Bishop’s College by bringing the College swim teams to the limelight and we proudly established our rightful place for many years spanning well over a decade. That period of achievement were star studded years for the then swimmers of Bishop’s College which will be remembered with much pride. The swimming captains of that time – Tania de Saram, Ayoma Goonethileke, Rowena de Saram, Riyanjani Illangakoon, Laila Karunaratne, Roshini Gunawardene, Migari Goonetilleke, Yasanthi Seneviratne, Natalie Gunewardene, Kamanee Hapugalle, Melanie Kanaka and Shanthini Gunewardene will recall those glory days when at the conclusion of the public and national swim meets Bishop’s College jubilantly carried away many trophies.
Aunty Tara truly made us who we are today. Her life radiated with her dedication, perseverance, hard work and deep faith for which she will be remembered.
I thank God for her life and thank you Aunty Tara for making a swimmer of responsibility out of me. May you rest in the eternal presence of our Lord whom you loved so dearly. You will be terribly missed by all of us who knew you but will indeed remain in our hearts. My heartfelt condolences to her children Jeremy, David, Julian and her siblings Rhuni, Oosha, Dijen and their families. May her precious soul Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory.
Swimming Captain – 1982