Dolphins Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren Searching For “Quarantine Zone” Towards Tokyo 2020

Simon Cusack with Jacco
ON DECK IN NAGAOKA: Australian Dolphins head coach and Coach of the Year Simon Cusack on deck in Nagaoka, Australia's pre-Olympic training venue. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

It could be a case of going “Back To The Future’ for the Australian Olympic swim team with the Australian Institute of Sport on the radar as a training venue in the lead up to Tokyo 2020.

Australia’s “Class of 2020” Olympians have received the green light from the Australian Olympic Committee to charge ahead towards July’s 2020 Games – and for the swim team it may well be via a return to the AIS and a “a quarantine zone.”

Dolphins head coach Jacco Verhaeren has not dismissed the option to go back to the AIS facility with its two 50m pools and a Recovery Centre and nearby accommodation – a world class facility that has been a ghost town in recent years with no swim squad now attached to the famous training centre set up in 1980 with Don Talbot as its first director.

The AIS has already been the official HQ for Australia’s women’s water polo team – especially after they were forced home from Europe – but they may well have a new tenant.

Verhaeren wasted no time in calling all of his available coaches together in Sydney to discuss any immediate problems and offer immediate solutions – following the cancellation of the Australian Championships and the Australian Age Championships due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Copach Chris Nesbitt with Maddie Gough

MAKING A POINT: Australian coach Chris Nesbit with 1500m charge Maddy Gough in Nagaoka. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

High Performance coaches in Sydney for the NSW State Championships included Chris Nesbitt (TSS Aquatic), Michael Bohl (Griffith University), Richard Scarce (Bond University), Glenn Baker (Southport Olympic), Simon Cusack (Kmnox/Pymble), Peter Bishop (Marion/SA Aquatic and Leisure Centre), Mick Palfrey (UWA West Coast) and Adam Kable (Sydney Olympic Park).

Adam Kable and crew

KABLE STARS: Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic head coach Adam Kable poolside with his crew in Nagaoka. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Verhaeren discussed any issues that may well besiege them in the lead up to the June 14-19 Olympic Swimming Trials in Adelaide.

“We have to strive for consistency in the home environment …if that can’t happen we are looking for alternatives ….that could be the AIS in Canberra, where can establish a quarantine zone,” said Verhaeren.

“But we are not just looking at Canberra, we are looking at other locations around the country (as well) where that could potentially could happen; it is all crystal balling but we have to look into plan Bs because it is changing every day….”

And that could well see more changes with an expected announcement of any likely updates coming Friday evening (Australian time).

The Swim Team will be announced on June 19 with the team is due to arrive into its Australian base camp in Cairns with two groups scheduled in on June 30 and July 7 before the team leaves for its Japanese training camp in Nagaoka on July 14 and then into Tokyo on July 21 via the fast train.

But that could all change following Friday’s hook up between the AOC and the National Federations as the mine field of planning hots up in an unprecedented time for Olympic sports.


MATT’S MESSAGE: Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll pictured here with AOC boss John Coates.Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Australian CEO Matt Carroll fronted the media in Sydney today and said: “We know the athletes will want to be there and we need to be able to deliver them there safely and get them home safely.

“We must deliver our athletes to the Games Coronavirus free…we anticipate this will be a requirement for all athletes who attend the Games.

“So we are starting a conversation right now, starting today with the sports to see how we can achieve this and we are looking at a number of measures towards and in conjunction with our sports.

“We’ll be looking at more base camps and longer based camps here in Australia before they depart for the Games obviously with a recognition then they will be Coronavirus free.

“We will also look at longer base camp options in Japan as well, putting more athletes in the host country earlier where they are in a controlled environment earlier and they can move into the Games Village.

“Some sports (like swimming who will start in Cairns before going to Nagaoka) already have well established plans and it may be just a matter of extending those camps either here or in Japan – we will work with the sports to come up with the best plans for them and their athletes.

“We’ll be looking at a range of options and solutions for each of our sports.

“Athletes arrival into the Village could be delayed so they arrive more into an adjusted time arrangement for their competition.

“We’ll be looking at special charter flight arrangements potentially to take athletes into Tokyo to ensure the isolation period they have been undertaking is protected on their way to the Games.”


FIVE OF THE BEST: Australian Head Coach with the local juniors nine Nagaoka. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

It was earlier this week that Team Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman wrote to his athletes which he says is as an important thing that they keep doing so they can hear from the Chef directly.

“I’ll be writing to them again at the end of this week when we get some of the answers back from the IOC after our conversation with president Bach to be able to tell them what’s going on,” said Chesterman.

“Their well being and understanding of the situation is very important to us,” said Chesterman who has spent the past three months travelling around Australia attending athlete inductions and visiting their training sessions and says he gets continual feedback that they all want to go to the Games.

“I have no doubt that athletes want to go to the Games and it would be fantastic if the Games could come off in a Coronavirus free environment, the athletes have been very strong in their continued ton desires to train.

“Anyone who is involved with the athletes –coaches and staff will be in a coronavirus free environment.

“It’s going to hard…. I accept that. But we will work it through with the sports…we have to look after the athletes.”

That with the Games not scheduled until July 24 they had time on their hands “and didn’t have to make a decision today” and that the health and safety of all athletes and officials were paramount.

And with that the AOC vowed to continue its planning and preparations for a Tokyo Games with athlete and official health and safety the major priority.

But they are also waiting on answers by the end of the week to a series of questions put to IOC president Thomas Bach about that hottest topic – athlete health and well being.

Questions like?

“What will be the quarantine requirements…?

“What assurances can the IOC give (the AOC) about the Athletes Village..?

“What testing facilities will be available for the virus? and;

“If a virus breaks out during the Games what will happen?”


TEAM BISHOP: Australian coach Peter Bishop shares a moment with his group in Nagaoka. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Carroll said the AOC owes it to the Australian athletes to ensure they will participate with the best opportunity at this year’s Games despite the global disruption caused by the COVID-19 virus.

The AOC said they would do everything possible to fulfil the dreams of Australian athletes in incredibly difficult circumstances – agreeing with the guidelines laid down by the IOC.

With the Games not scheduled until July 24 they had time on their hands “and didn’t have to make a decision today” and that the health and safety of all athletes and officials were paramount.

And with that the AOC vowed to continue its planning and preparations for a Tokyo Games with athlete and official health and safety the major priority.

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  1. Helene George

    Swimmers can’t train now as pools closed. No consistency now.

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