By Swimming World special correspondent Pam Roberts
BARCELONA, Spain, August 9. THROUGHOUT the world swimming championships recently, the attendance at the Palau Sant Jordi was impressive every day. Fans and teams from every continent came to support their countries with all the lung power and accessories they had.
One of the most noticeable groups in the venue stuck out at first as a bunch of yellow T-shirts, and on closer look, it turned out to be the youth camp of the German Swim Association DSV. And while the performances of the German athletes were not as on point as expected, those kids didn’t let up. They showed up every day for prelims and finals. They made the noise, they brought the cheers. And on the last day of competition, in the break between prelims and finals, they even got to entertain the crowd at the Planet Water Village outside the Palau Sant Jordi with a choreographed dance-routine.
Video of German youth swim camp in the Planet Water Village:
Sponsored and supported by the DSV and Arena Germany, these kids got the chance to go on a slightly different vacation than most of their peers. For the 18-day trip to Barcelona, each attendant, all between the ages of 12 and 20, paid 680 Euros for the opportunity of a lifetime. It was quite a bargain compared to what the average tourist paid to visit the city and the championships. And while they were in Barcelona they pitched tents on a campground with spectacular views of the city. Their excursion also included free public transport and several other tourist perks, including tickets to the world championships. Sometimes, the athletes of Team Germany showed up at their camp for a little meet-and-greet and to answer the questions of the future of German aquatic sports.
“It was pretty cool when the athletes showed up,” one of the kids said. “They just sat down with us, we had some food and chatted a little. It’s nice how normal and down-to-earth they all were.”
Germany’s youth camp, dressed in yellow shirts, preparing to watch and cheer during one of the finals sessions at the world swimming championships
Unfortunately, the kids didn’t get to do any swimming at the competition sites, but described the camp as an amazing opportunity to hang out with other swimmers from Germany while seeing all the different aquatic sports at a huge international meet at the same time. How often do you get to go to Barcelona, and to see several world records in a day? Or be in attendance when international superstars such as Ryan Lochte (who was a favorite of a large percentage of the female campers) win medals and do historic swims? How often do you get to see the likes of Tom Daley or David Boudia on the diving platform or get to go to a water polo match where the crowd is so loud that you can hear it nearly a mile away from the stadium?
“It’s amazing to be here,” another camper said. “The venues are so big and it gets so loud. And seeing all the swimmers up close is so cool and it’s so much fun. We really like the American swimmers and they don’t come to Germany, so to see them here is just awesome.”
Getting into those camps is quite easy, thanks to an online sign-up page. This year, signing up for attendance to the camp had to be closed up and changed to a waitlist after 350 people had signed up in a short amount of time. In the end, the camp consisted of more than 400 people, 30 of which were French.
These camps are done for every major meet and led the campers and counsellors even as far as to Shanghai for the 2011 world championships. The trips are an amazing opportunity to get young swimmers interested in competing for their countries, since they get the chance to actually see what it is like to step up in front of a worldwide audience. Other countries should follow in Germany’s footsteps and allow such programs for their youth.
Applications for the DSV swimcamp attending the European Championships in Berlin next summer are available online.