From Monday 6th July, a number of Britain’s leading para-swimmers will be returning to the water following the principles set out by the DCMS’ ‘Elite sport return to training guidance: Step One’ (ESRTT).
Given the increased complexity of para-swimming, it has been necessary to take extra precautionary steps to ensure both athlete and staff wellbeing upon returning to the pool environment.
Under the ESRTT guidance definitions, the para-swimming leadership team have identified the following groups whom are eligible to return to training:
- British Para-Swimming Podium athletes
- British Para-Swimming Podium Potential athletes
British Para-Swimming is also aware that in some parts of the UK, lockdown, travel and social distancing rules still vary, therefore, some athletes may still not be eligible to train, even though they meet our criteria. Equally, not all athletes on the list will be able to train in the first phase, due to social distancing guidelines and our ability to effectively manage each daily training environment. In this first phase, it makes sense that we work with our existing partners in Manchester, and so will be returning to the water at the East Manchester Leisure Centre.
This facility provides everything we need upon returning to training, and will be configured in an eight lane, short course format. Lanes at the venue are also wider than normal at 2.6m, so will aid our social distancing measures.
Athlete and staff safety is paramount, and as such there will be a ‘maximum allowable number’ for training, and social distancing steps will be put in place to ensure complete compliance with UK Government social distancing guidelines; these measures will include staggered start times, designated entry and exit points, clearly set out personal changing areas and people movement/flow plans have been established.
Athletes will be required to complete a daily COVID questionnaire, upload their wellness and previous day’s training load onto Smartabase before leaving home for the venue, where they will then be temperature checked. It will be mandatory to wear a face covering on entering, and throughout your time in the training environment, except when in the water.
Of this news, British Para-Swimming Head Coach, Rob Aubry, commented:
“Phase one of our return will be with just a handful of athletes, to ensure we can get our procedures correct and that it is safe to expand the programme. To begin with there will just be one coach on poolside and one COVID-19 Officer. Training will be slightly different, with the coach’s interaction being limited and all sessions being discussed and agreed before the athletes turn up to the pool.
“Lots of extra considerations need to be made, such as around the cleaning of footwear, wheelchairs and crutches on entry to pool deck; this will actually help us in our drive towards Tokyo where some of these procedures will be standard practice. At present there will be no structured strength and condition programme on site, with this continuing to take place at home, but athletes will have their own space to execute pre-pool before they enter the water.
“We’re really pleased that we’re taking our first steps in a return to pool-based training and are confident in the procedures and measures we’ve put in place. If everything goes smoothly we’ll progress to phase two of our Return to Training protocol and hopefully, before too long, the government will allow club programmes to return as well. We owe a big thanks to our colleagues in Scotland, Wales and England who are pushing the government to reopen pools at the earliest, safe opportunity.”
Whilst some of our swimmers will be able to return to training in Manchester, a number of our para-swimmers, who are typically based in club programmes, will have to await a UK Government announcement to re-open swimming pools. At this point in time British Swimming is backing the #OpenOurPools campaign, being led by Swim England.