Vladimir Salnikov, President of the All-Russia Swimming Federation (WWF), spoke on the impact that the current pandemic will have on the sport of swimming, both within Russia and globally. Salnikov, as well as serving as the head of the WWF since 2009, is the former head coach of the Russian National Team. Prior to that, he was a world record holder and Olympic champion, specializing in the distance freestyle races. He was the first swimmer to break 15 minutes in the 1500, doing so at the 1980 Olympics in his home country.
Salnikov started by addressing the financial effects on national federations brought upon by the pandemic. He stated that, while the WWF does not receive funds from the state, there are no guarantees that the federation would be able to exist should the current state of the country and world continue long-term. He also referenced other federations who have struggled financially due to the pandemic, mentioning USA Rugby that, earlier this year, was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
According to Salnikov the WWF has remained strong financially due to its reliance on personal donations.
“The WWF supports all employees of the federation. For now, we are able to afford it. We hope that this crisis will not last. If it continues, there are no guarantees that it will be possible to survive without assistance. Moreover, the WWF does not receive any funds directly from the state. We are looking for sponsors and donor funds. This money is used to pay salaries of employees.”
Salnikov went on to discuss the importance of the ability to train for swimmers across the country, from its Olympic hopefuls down to the age group swimmers. He compared swimmers being out of the water to fish, stating that “swimmer’s gills dry up without water”. He also said that he believes this time away from the water will impact younger swimmers the most as, “Growing up and gaining weight – the position in the water will be different. It can take months to regain form and previous sensations.”
He also discussed the country’s return to the water, currently without a set date. When asked about future competitions later this year he responded, “Will it be possible to hold two Russian Championships? It’s hard to tell right now.”
Across the country, some regions are beginning to return to the water. In the lowest hit areas, pool are being considered to reopen within the week. Meanwhile, the main Russian training center in Moscow is working towards reopening, albeit in a limited capacity. Salnikov also stated that the Russian Youth National Team is expected to be able to return to training soon at their center in Volgograd.
While the country has yet to set any dates, they released a set of guidelines for sporting federations to re-open earlier this week. The first stage of the plan would allow National Teams to resume training at a limited capacity, as well as youth sports to resume.
Russia currently has the second most recorded cases of the Coronavirus, falling behind only the United States. As of May 20th, the country had just over 300,000 confirmed cases, with roughly 3,000 deaths attributed to the virus.