Argentinian swimmers are still out of the water, at least for a few more days, following the latest announcement issued by the nation’s sports authorities. On June 6, they announced that athletes who have qualified for the Tokyo Games will be allowed to resume training in spite of the confinement that the nation is immersed in as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Delfina Pignatiello, a key player in convincing the nation’s sports leaders about the pool reopening, remains the only swimmer residing in Argentina that has already met the standards established by FINA for Tokyo 2020. The three-time Pan American champion had expressed her eagerness to return to the pool on social media and some sporadic public appearances. But during an interview with a local news channel, she surprised everyone with her confession, visibly affected by the 11 weeks she spent out of the water: “I think I might not be at the Olympics,” she said.
Her statements were echoed a few hours later, just as the nation’s government announced that quarantine would be prolonged in most of Argentina, mainly in Buenos Aires and surroundings, until at least June 28. Last Saturday, an exception for high-performance athletes was officially approved.
Swimming wise, the Argentine Confederation of Water Sports (CADDA) had already published its own protocol for the resumption of practices, whose approval depends on the nation’s health and sports ministries.
The permit to return to the pool reaches a small group of 7 swimmers of the Argentine squad: in addition to Delfina Pignatiello, who resides in the region of San Isidro – very close to Buenos Aires-, the list also includes Federico Grabich in Rosario, Gabriel Morelli in the city of Santa Fe, Virginia Bardach in Tres Arroyos, and both Macarena Ceballos and Andrea Berrino in Cordoba.
These athletes were required to provide the necessary documentation that would allow them to return to practice. Such information included the pools where they would train and other details such as how they would get to and from there. However, due to various logistical reasons in each different city, only Virginia Bardach was able to return to the pool on Monday after nearly three months.
The remaining swimmers have not yet received the relevant notification with a specific return date, although it is expected that the issue can be resolved within next week.
Taking into account that on March 16 the National Center for High Sports Performance (Cenard) closed, including the swimming pool named after Jeannette Campbell, swimmers in the nation have faced an 84-day stall in the absence of chlorine.
For swimmers located in Cordoba and Santa Fe, the only pools available will be those that depend on municipal management. In Buenos Aires, although initial reports hinted that some sectors of Cenard itself could come back to life again, other inconveniences in the operation of the complex’s pool would force Delfina Pignatiello to swim in a pool in San Martin, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
Other Argentinian swimmers who have qualified for Tokyo 2020 and were able to resume their training are those who reside abroad: Santiago Grassi returned to the water two weeks ago in a municipal swimming pool in Alabama, United States, where he lives and competes for Auburn University. Grassi awaits news about an imminent call for next season at the International Swimming League (ISL).
When it comes to Julia Sebastian, the 2016 Olympian was also able to resume training late May in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. She moved there last year, upon her arrival at the Minas Tennis Swim Club.
During last summer’s Long-Course World Championships, Argentina was represented by four swimmers – Santiago Arteta, Joaquin Moreno, Roberto Strelkov and Julia Arino. In the pool, Strelkov placed 33rd in the men’s 50-meter butterfly and 39th in the 100-meter butterfly while Moreno finished 33rd in the 800-meter freestyle and 31sr in the 1500-meter freestyle.
In open waters, Arino finished 26th in the 5-kilometer and 32nd in the sole Olympic event, the 10-kilometer. On the men’s part, Arteta placed 40th in the 10-kilometer while Moreno finished 46th.
At the Lima 2019 Pan American Games, Argentina placed third in the medal table swimming wise, notching 4 gold, 4 silver and 3 bronze, just behind Brazil and the United States.
Argentina remains one of the least impacted nations due to the pandemic, with the lowest infection rate within South America. Thus far, 22,794 positive cases and 670 deaths have been reported.