Robert Bernhardt is a high school senior and contributing author for SwimSwam. He recently spent the last 10 months in Coventry, England, where the city’s club has found their pool in danger of being shut down.
On Sunday June 22nd the City of Coventry (England, UK) held a “Save Our Swimming Gala.” This came in response to the decision made in February by the Coventry City Council to eliminate the 50m pool used by the Coventry team (club website: http://www.coventry-swimming.org.uk/) for training.
The Gala featured numerous Commonwealth, Paralympic and Olympic athletes, including 1994 Commonwealth champion and Coventry Head Coach Adam Ruckwood, leading teams composed of age group, senior and masters swimmers from the team. Each of the eight teams were named after Olympic host cities; I was a member and the spiritual heart of team “Barcelona,” the host of the XXV Olympiad.
The events were mixed sex and often mixed age group. More standard events such as mixed freestyle and medley relays were featured, but there were also a number of races involving inflatable rafts, fins and T-shirts. These were especially unpredictable, and it was anyone’s guess who would figure out the most effective strategy in each event.
I did four events: the 15+ mixed 200 free relay, 200 medley relay, 8×50 mixed age freestyle relay and the 4x4x50 stroke elimination relay. The elimination relay was a series of four consecutive relay races. For each relay a stroke was chosen, and the two slowest teams were eliminated. The race (with the same swimmers as before) commenced again after a new stroke was picked from the hat. I helped Barcelona make it through the first (fly) and second (breast) rounds, however we missed out on the final during a free relay. The final was won by “London” after a furious comeback on the freestyle. My next event was the 200 medley relay. I swam the ‘fly leg, and extended a lead we never lost. This victory resulting in much celebration by team-members, spearheaded by myself. However we couldn’t keep our streak going and the 8×50 free relay did not result in a win for Barcelona.
After leading at the midway point, Seoul finished second, while Tokyo won the meet. Barcelona finished 6th out of eight teams, despite ample team spirit.
The Olympic Pool is used by the team nearly 7 hours per day. It is the primary location for each of the club’s fourteen training groups and three water polo squads, in addition to the “Learn to Swim” programs conducted. The proposed solution is a 6 lane 25m pool, which would be about a 63% reduction in pool space, not accounting for the lack of the adjacent diving well, which is approximately 10 meters by 15 meters.
Additionally, it is the only 50m pool in the “West Midlands” area, which has a population of well over 2.5 million people. For this reason, almost all local and regional long course championships, such as Warwickshires and Midlands, are held in Coventry by necessity. The alternative 25m pool is also planned with zero spectator seating, meaning that hosting meets, a major revenue source, would be impossible for the Coventry Club. Over a dozen nearby teams from other areas use the pool to supplement their training and as such depend on the facilities. The presence of an Olympic pool is vital to many other teams’ training and competition schedule.
Coventry is a large city, with a tax base of over 315,000 people. For comparison, the combined Champaign-Urbana (where I am from) park district in Central Illinois has two outdoor pools, each with a water park and meet capable. There also are two indoor pools used by the public schools, both of which host many high school and YMCA/USA Club meets during the year and one of which is open to the public year-round. Together, Champaign and Urbana have around 120,000 people, or about 40% the population of Coventry. However they have four times the planned pool space that Coventry would, which is ten times more public pool space per capita. Coventry is embarking on a number of ambitious plans to promote sports and sporting infrastructure. A key component is the development of aquatic sports and facilities, which are otherwise unavailable to many people. Putting forth a single six lane pool for 315,000 people is in my mind not an ambitious goal.
An online petition can be found here: http://epetitions.coventry.gov.uk/closed-or-rejected-epetitions/closed-epetitions/keep-a-50m-swimming-pool-in-coventry/