After as long as 122 days out of the water due to the global COVID-19 pandemic that forced nationwide closures in mid-March, the Swimming Canada High Performance Centre network is back up and running safely.
Swimming Canada has compiled and will be releasing a variety of data demonstrating how the sport has resumed safely and should continue to do so as more pools reopen. The High Performance Centres have been home to 46 of Canada’s top Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls this year. As of Sept. 30, when the data was gathered, the reopened centres had held a combined 356 training sessions in their pools in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver (as well as Victoria before that centre closed Aug. 15 as planned).
Individualized by the numbers of athletes attending each session, this totals 2,991 pool training sessions by individuals. In addition, the centres have held 1,074 individual dryland training sessions outside the pool. This brings the total number of individual training opportunities to more than 4,000 from the time pools began reopening in July until the end of September.
The return to swimming training has followed the Swimming Canada COVID-19 protocols. During this time there have been zero positive COVID-19 tests from High Performance Centre network swimmers.
“We recognize that, while you cannot ever eliminate risk to zero, we can work on maintaining our risk mitigation protocols within our centres,” said High Performance Director and National Coach John Atkinson. “This shows other university and municipality pools that the proper plans and protocols should allow for the sport to return in their facilities as well.”
As Canada’s swimmers spent a significant time out of the water and structured swimming training, a great deal of work was going on behind the scenes to pave the way for their safe return. This includes the work done by the National Return to Sport Taskforce led by Own The Podium, and supported by the Chief Medical Officers of the Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Institut National du Sport du Québec and U Sports, which developed risk mitigation tools to be used by sports looking to return to training. These were developed using information from the World Health Organization, and then Swimming Canada assembled a working group to develop its sport-specific return to training plan. This group involved a variety of representatives from the swimming community including the Swimming Canada national team physician and key performance staff.
The return plans included completion of the National Return to Sport Taskforce risk mitigation process, ensuring all the centres worked with the facility operators to follow their plans.
“This required meetings with all athletes on the requirements of training in their bubble, not training outside of their HPC group, and of course doing daily monitoring of COVID-19 symptoms, and seeking medical advice as required,” Atkinson said.
Centres reported to the Swimming Canada HPC management assessment group daily for the first three weeks of reopening, and continue to report weekly, or more frequently as close monitoring continues in all centres.
“The return to the centres has seen a controlled environment being created in order to mitigate risk from a very responsible group of athletes, coaches and expert staff,” Atkinson said. “Even though Canada may be seeing a second wave of the pandemic, the Swimming Canada HPCs have shown how the risk mitigating plans that are in place are working and the measures undertaken continue to work. We have made other national sport groups aware of this through the National Return to Sport Taskforce, and now we are sharing the information so it can be shown to all in federal and provincial government, public health departments, municipal councils, pool operators and universities.
Swimming Canada will continue to release further data and details in the coming days. Work continues on an upcoming Version 3 of Return to Swimming Resource Document, in partnership with the provincial sections, which each have province-specific plans.
To read part 2, click HERE
To read part 3, click HERE