Nancy Anderson Long Riach

Sport: Swimming

Nancy Riach

Nancy Riach was a member of Motherwell Amateur Swimming and Water Polo Club. She was described  as the finest swimmer in the  British Empire and excelled at all  of the swimming strokes.

In 1945, Nancy held twenty-eight Scottish and British records, an amazing feat. The following year she was crowned British champion in the 100 yards, 220 yards and 440 yards Freestyle categories, and a year later she won the 100m freestyle title in the World Student Games in Paris.

She was born in Motherwell and attended Dalziel High School before qualifying as a teacher with the Lanarkshire education authority.

Riach was a member of the Motherwell Amateur Swimming and Water Polo Club based at the local corporation baths. Her coach at the club was David Crabb who was inducted to the North Lanarkshire Sporting Hall of Fame in 2017.

Tragically, while competing at the European Swimming Championships in Monte Carlo, she contracted polio. Against doctors' advice she continued to race and was pulled unconscious from the pool at the end of the 100 yards freestyle event. She never regained consciousness. She died on the morning of 15 September 1947 before her parents arrived from Scotland. 

Riach was buried, in her swimming costume, in Airdrie on 20 September 1947. It was estimated more than 10,000 people attended the funeral procession to New Monkland Cemetery. 

On her death The United Nations Swimming Committee chairman, S.T. Hurst, said of her: "She was undoubtedly the finest swimmer the British Empire has ever produced. Nancy Riach has been the finest ambassador of sport that Scotland or any other country within the British Empire has ever turned out."

In 1949, Scottish Amateur Swimming Association established The Nancy Riach Memorial Medal, which is still going today. The medal is awarded annually to the person who has done the most to enhance or uphold the prestige of Scottish swimming in any of its disciplines.

She was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.