A very talented swimmer, Percy Coutman joined the Old Trafford Swimming Club and was not only their first ever champion, but was also the ASA 200 yards breaststroke champion in 1907, with a time of 2:55.4. Selected for the 1908 Olympics, he failed to impress but trained hard and was selected again for the 1912 Games, when he won a bronze medal in the 400 metres breaststroke, and came fourth in the 200. Between 1907-13 he was the ASA 200 yards champion five times. In 1912 he set world records for the 400 and 500 metres breaststroke, and in 1914 became the first man ever to swim the 200 breaststroke in under three minutes, when he achieved a time of 2:56.6 at Garston Baths, Liverpool. It was a record that stood for eight years.
In 1914 Courtman enlisted in the 6th Territorial Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, and was posted to Gallipoli in 1915, before moving into Egypt, and then to France 1917. Just over two months later Percy Courtman lost his life during one of the many German shelling attacks. His brother James was killed in action nearly five months later, whilst also serving with the Manchester Regiment. Percy was remembered with the Percy Courtman Memorial Cup, awarded annually to the Old Trafford Swimming Club 200 yards (later metres) breaststroke champion.