Pernille Blume Leads 41 Top Danish Swimmers Back To Training After Talks Navigate ‘No Pools Until August’

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Pernille Blume - Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Pernille Blume, the Olympic 50m freestyle champion, leads a list of 41 top swimmers in Denmark who have been given permission to return to training in controlled conditions at performance centres after the Danish Swimming Union complained that its athletes were being held back from returning to regular routines by government COVID-19-lockdown easing plans in which pools were placed towards the back of the queue in a blueprint to reboot sport.

A report from the Statens Serum Institute in Denmark puts swimming pools in the middle risk group when it comes to potential COVID-19 infection rates based on standard behaviour and spacing at such facilities. Last Thursday, those in that middle group were told they would have to wait until August to hear better news.

In a change of heart that followed lobbying from the Danish swim federation, the Government today announced that while there would be no opening of pools in general, 41 swimmers on an “approved athletes” list, including Pernille Blume and fellow podium-placing teammates Jeanette Ottesen, Mie Nielsen, Emilie Beckmann, Signe Bro and Viktor Bromer, can now make their way back to regular pool training.

Last Thursday, the Danish Government issued a plan for the return of sport that placed swimming in a fourth wave of sports allowed to make a gradual return to training. Concerns included the environments and habits at pool facilities, which are mainly indoors in Denmark. At leisure pools and in club sessions with several swimmers per lane, social-distancing is all but impossible, while aerosolised water is cited among red flags when it comes to the spread of COVID-19 regardless of water chlorination that does not extend to all parts of a pool facility.

However, the national federation lobbied on two levels: for the elite swimmers and after that for the clubs and the mass of learn-to-swim programs that help keep the nation water safe, it argued.

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Emilie Beckmann, left, and Jeanette Ottesen celebrate shared bronze for Denmark in the 50m butterfly at the European Short-Course Championships in Glasgow in 2018 – Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer

After talks between leading authorities, Sports Director of the Danish Swimming Union Lars Green Bach was able to say today:

“While there are positive health trends to track in the community, there is still no political support for a reopening of swimming in line with other sports. Therefore, it is a great pleasure that despite that, Denmark’s best swimmers [are being] allowed to swim again.”

He added, however that the decision is not the answer to all prayers in sports that face hefty challenges after a period of lockdown and given the altered working conditions ahead. He and others must now organise schedules and the conditions in which swimmers will be allowed to return to training in a “sound manner”.

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Pernille Blume – Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Pernille Blume became the first Danish swimmer ever to claim the 50m freestyle gold, her victory marking one of the upsets of events in the pool. The last Dane before her to win an Olympic sprint freestyle crown was Greta Andersen at London 1948 over 100m freestyle.

Director of the Danish Swimming Union Morten Hinnerup explained what happened next in a statement from the federation after talks with the Ministry of Sport, the Danish Sports Confederation (DIF) and its parallel body away from the Olympic Movement, the DGI:

“On the way to negotiations, together with DGI and the Danish Swimming Pool Technical Association, we have prepared proposals for guidelines for a proper reopening of the club life in the country’s swimming clubs.”

Hinnerup added: “The Danish Sports Confederation (DIF) really fought our case at the negotiating table in connection with phase 2 of the reopening. We know that they will continue to do so, and of course we will continue to put pressure on the negotiating parties. There is no one who would rather have opened the activities in the country’s swimming pools than the Danish Swimming Union.”

The federation plays a large role in teaching and ensuring that the popularity of beaches during summer in Denmark is matched by a high level of safety. Said Hinnerup:

“More than 150,000 children and young people will not receive the instruction that keeps them safe. This is extremely worrying.”

In a statement last week, the federation noted that “more than 10,000 children and young people” swim on a regular basis. It would not be possible to get them all back in the water sooner than later but it was important to get the elite swimmers back to training, an Olympic Games a little over a year away after a period of lockdown and lost fitness.

The details of the conditions in which the 41 “approved” swimmers will train at controlled facilities has not yet been released but is expected to include measures such as one swimmer per lane, strict hygiene rules on equipment, drinking bottles and use of any changing facilities and staged arrivals at the facilities.

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1 comment

  1. Fu Ren

    Swimming World It is a little bit more complicated as such. There is a general dissatisfaction amongst water sports people, as these swimmers on that list in general had access to pools. This would equal, that the national league in football (soccer) would compile of only players with reference at national team. Many in Denmark are questioning why the Netherlands are back and why Sweden never refrained from swimming. Positive is it that the water-sport community is out and commenting on it, and hopefully the politicians will listen to a sport where the talent pool has not been bigger, looking back.

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