With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down the majority of pools across the country, swimmers have been forced to innovate and find creative ways to train while they wait for things to return to some sense of normal.
For several members of the Indiana University pro group, that has meant doing laps in a pond on the grounds of a south Bloomington subdivision.
Among the athletes taking part in the pond workouts twice a week are Lilly King, Cody Miller, Zane Grothe and Annie Lazor. Fellow IU pro group member Vini Lanza, who returned to Brazil once the pandemic came into effect, has been training under similar conditions back home.
“Definitely never thought I would be swimming open water, coming out and training in the pond,” King, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and seven-time LC World Champion, told USA Today. “But it’s kind of been a nice little change here.”
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The pond has buoys approximately 100 yards apart, and the swimmers go back and forth to replicate pool workouts as closely as possible with the exact distance unknown.
The athletes got connected to the pond through Bloomington High School coach Kandis Looze, wife of Indiana University head coach Ray Looze, who knows local triathlete and developer Tim Henke who was happy to let the swimmers come and train.
The Tokyo Olympic Games, which all of the members of the pro group were preparing for, were postponed until 2021 in late March.
“I’m going to be honest,” said King. “It’s been kind of nice. Haven’t exactly had a break since I’ve been 8 years old. So it’s kind of nice to just kind of step back for a little bit and just swim for the sake of swimming and not necessarily for the sake of performing in a meet.”
Members of the pro group had also trained in an Evansville pool before it got shut down, and King added that she has also been able to train at a residence in Indianapolis with a private 25-yard pool.
They’ve also managed to keep each other motivated by doing dryland workouts together.
“Not that I didn’t respect these people’s hard work or anything beforehand, but it gave me such a newfound respect for the people I’m around every day, truly,” said Lazor, who won three gold medals at the 2019 Pan American Games. “They’re willing to do whatever they can to get better and be in the water during this time.”
“It’s really the Olympic spirit,” added coach Ray Looze. “Regardless of how they might do a year from now, they’ve already shown me that they’re champions.”
Indiana was set to allow some pools to reopen, adhering to social distancing guidelines, on May 24.