After the nation of England was granted its long-awaited permission to return to the pool, the majority of Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish swimmers are still land-bound at the moment.
As we reported at the end of June, Scotland’s government announced an easing of restrictions on training for performance and professional athletes, coaches and support staff in Scotland, which resulted in the opening of the National Swimming Academy. That meant the likes of Duncan Scott, Ross Murdoch and Aimee Willmott could get their Olympic training back underway after months out of the water.
However, club swimmers are still waiting on official word of post-coronavirus-lockdown re-entry, with Scottish Swimming announcing yesterday that it looks likely that the option for pools to re-open will not be before 31st July as the Scottish Government continues to take a staggered approach through each phase.
Scottish Swimming says, “We are getting closer and while it might be frustrating that indoor pools in England have a confirmed date from which they may re-open, we need to remain patient and remember that each home nation has been operating and continues to operate to very different timescales.
“We continue to work together with many indoor sports, sportscotland and the Government to advocate for the support that the sector and aquatics needs, so it can continue to play an important role in getting people active and improving the health of the nation.”
Wales is also a nation currently without swimmers in the water, only there it applies to elite athletes as well. Per SwimWales’ statement yesterday, July 9th:
“Swim Wales as a Welsh National Governing Body are subject to Welsh Government restrictions as they currently stand. These restrictions currently also apply to the training facilities where our High-Performance Centres and National Elite Programme are based, namely the Wales National Pool Swansea and Cardiff International Pool.
“We welcome the release of restrictions in England, as this will enable our colleagues at British Swimming to implement their own return to training plans. We will continue to maintain strong links with them through the existing channels and we will observe their progress over the weeks ahead.
“The Welsh-based elite swimmers linked to the British Swimming World Class Programme will continue to observe the Welsh Government guidelines, and our performance teams will continue to work with Sport Wales and Welsh Government on timings for our own return to water plans”
Although elite swimmers based in Loughborough and Bath were able to begin training several weeks ago, the remainder of English swimmers is looking forward to officially being able to enter pools on July 11th (outdoor) and July 25th (indoor).
As far as Northern Ireland is concerned, Swim Ireland and Swim Ulster have both expressed their ‘extreme disappointment’ with governmental decision-makers’ omission of swimming pools in Leisure Centres reopenings on July 17th.
No date other than August 7th for pools was mentioned in the latest Northern Ireland announcement, leaving swimmers and governing bodies wondering why the drastic difference between N.I. and the Republic of Ireland who saw its pools opened on June 29th.
Speaking on yesterday’s announcement Swim Ulster Operations Manager Stephen Cuddy said ‘Swim Ulster have been in constant dialogue with the Executive providing all of the relevant documentation for the re-opening of pools. As of today, we will be the last sport back and I am urging the Executive to re-consider and bring the date forward.’
Swim Ireland National Performance Director Dr Jon Rudd added ‘To have different protocols in place for our sport north and south of the border is less than ideal and we are in a position where our swimmers in Northern Ireland are not just falling behind their southern friends and competitors, but are also disadvantaged in comparison with the majority of Europe. Our Framework for a return to water for swimmers and swimming clubs is incredibly robust, based on both science and common sense and we are willing and ready to support the councils and pool operators in their return to the water. We would ask the NI Executive to look at this again urgently’.
Swim Ireland’s statement continues with the following:
‘The current health advice states that adherence to the appropriate guidelines will control risk from waterborne COVID-19 virus. Swimming pools across the island of Ireland are commonly disinfected with chlorine (as a primary disinfectant) which has proven to kill the virus. This enables pool operators to confidently state that COVID-19 would not be transmissible through swimming pool water if the pool is operated in line with this guidance. Furthermore, club swimmers are prepared to come to the pool and operate without access to changing rooms and showers as experts suggest that the primary risk to swimming pool users comes from the time spent outside of the water rather than the time spent within it. This policy is already proving to work very well for clubs and their swimmers in the Republic of Ireland.
Swimmers based in Northern Ireland are anxious to get back in the water, missing their sport and feeling discriminated against as their friends and competitors in the South are back in action. They have reached a point in the year where they would normally be increasing their training and instead find themselves not being able to undertake any training in the pool. They do not want to fall behind their counterparts in the South who will find themselves back to their sport much longer if this status quo is maintained.
Swim Ireland’s Swimming Framework, completed with input from equivalent bodies in England, Scotland and Wales is in line with Public Health Guidelines and contains the protocols through which clubs in the Republic of Ireland have been successfully operating since their return to the water at the end of June. We expect these clubs to be in a position to move to the next phase of their return to training in the coming weeks as they have trialled and successfully learnt from these protocols.’