In preparation for the reopening of sport and recreation facilities, Swimming Canada and its partners are taking several steps to ensure the return to aquatic sports is as safe as possible.
The organization has created a 15-person Return to Swimming Working Group with the goal of facilitating a safe return to the pool as soon as possible. Chaired by Operations Director Brian Edey, the group includes key staff, medical personnel, representatives from provincial organizations, and Pan Am Games medallist Jeremy Bagshaw as athlete representative. A sub-committee of coaches from across the country have also been engaged to provide input.
Swimming Canada will work with Canada Artistic Swimming, Diving Canada and Water Polo Canada on this initiative. Swimming Canada is also communicating directly with its partners at major recreation facilities, as well as with the Lifesaving Society, which sets the standard for lifeguard performance in Canada. As appropriate, recommendations and information will be shared with health authorities, aquatic facilities, provincial sections, clubs and coaches to equip them to lead a safe return to swimming.
“So many people and organizations rely on aquatic facilities, and we are all in this together,” said Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi. “Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we as the collective Canadian swimming community have had to significantly adapt our normal routines and activities in order to prioritize the health and wellbeing of Canadians as a whole. As we look to eliminate barriers to return to the pool, safety will continue to be our No. 1 priority. We know there is no quick fix, and we will collaborate with all our partners to work within the recommendations of local health authorities.”
In addition, High Performance Director and National Coach John Atkinson is part of the Own The Podium Return to Sport Task Force focused on making recommendations to the Government of Canada regarding the safe return of high performance sport.
The return to swimming pools will be a phased approach, beginning once municipal, provincial and federal regulations permit the resumption of this type of activity. Phase 1 would target the return of a small group of top athletes, such as those training at Swimming Canada High Performance Centres, and other Olympic and Paralympic Games hopefuls training in club or university settings. Training environments will need to be modified as required to meet safety guidelines. It is imperative that all return plans adhere to the municipal, provincial and national health guidelines and restrictions that are in place.
“Once guidelines for a safe environment are established, our top athletes will be the first to return to the pool,” Atkinson said. “Not only is returning to training their top priority when looking ahead to competition, our top athletes are extremely responsible and can be trusted as ambassadors to establish this first wave of return to sport.”
Future phases will include expanding these groups, and adding groups as the sport works toward a full return to training, and eventually competition.
As needs and requirements will differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, where appropriate Swimming Canada will provide sample return to swimming plans, facility access and pool usage recommendations, sample workout plans, and risk assessment tools. The first phase of these documents is expected to be ready and distributed later this month.
“We need to consider how athletes enter and exit facilities, use equipment, get changed, and train with space between them in the pool. We are looking at all options to make a safe return to training as soon as it is possible,” Atkinson said.
Swimming Canada continues to be hopeful it will be able to host an invitational camp for top pool and open water swimmers Aug. 25-29, and will continue to look to host any and all such training opportunities within Canada in the coming months.
The organization will continue to create and share resources as the situation develops, based on the best information available.
“Swimming is extremely important to Canadians who value a lifestyle of swimming, sport, fitness and health,” said Swimming Canada President Cheryl Gibson. “Canadians are global leaders in high performance, and we will be leaders in making a safe return to the water.”