JACK Hatfield Junior - a man whose surname "is synonymous with sporting endeavour and achievement" - has died at the age of 80.

The former Army and county champion swimmer and runner-up in three English championships was the son of North-East Olympic medal-winning swimmer John “Jack” Gatenby Hatfield.

His father founded the Middlesbrough store Jack Hatfield Sports in 1912, which is still trading today on Borough Road.

Jack Junior died yesterday (Sunday, January 26) at his home at the Middleton Hall retirement village, at Middleton St George, near Darlington.

He started swimming at the public baths in Gilkes Street, Middlesbrough, at an early age and by the age of 14 was Middlesbrough schoolboy champion.

Mr Hatfield attended Barnard Castle School and helped its swimming team to win national trophies before going on to complete National Service in the early 1950s, becoming the Army 220 yard and 440 yard swimming champion.

In 1954, one leaving the Army he won North-East and county titles and came second in the English Championships three times.

Jack Jr – whose three brothers Peter, Tom and Richard were also talented swimmers – played water polo into his 50s and was a director of Middlesbrough Football Club for more than a decade.

He was granted the Freedom of Middlesbrough in 2009.

Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon paid tribute to “an incredibly kind and thoughtful man”.

“For generations of people both in Middlesbrough and further afield, the Hatfield name is synonymous with sporting endeavour and achievement, and the sports shop they founded has been a focal point in the town for over a century,” he said.

“Jack was a true gentleman, and I know he will be missed by a great many people.”

He was initially admitted to Middleton Hall by his family in 2010.

His friend, and Middleton Hall’s managing director Jeremy Walford said: “He intended, despite his poor health, to start swimming again.

“And swim he did. When I visited him in his first week, it was not obvious that the shadow of the strong, athletic man I remembered from my youth would even manage to get to the swimming pool. I had underestimated his extraordinary determination.

“Within three months, he had regained much of his strength and was swimming 20 to 30 lengths every day.

“That winter, he was back to watching football at The Riverside and at Darlington when the Boro were not at home. His passion and enthusiasm for sport and life were back.”