Swimming Canada Releases ‘Return to Swimming’ Resource Guide

Photo Courtesy: Vaughn Ridley/Swimming Canada

Swimming Canada Friday unveiled a Return to Swimming Resource Document, a 22-page guide to getting swimmers back in the water and restarting competition.

The objective is to get Canadian aquatic athletes back in the water safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. It sets out a step-wise return according to four steps of increasing capacity. From the press release:

The framework is intended to inform the resumption of competitive swimming in Canada and is meant as a resource for all levels of the sport. It contains a number of recommendations to equip health authorities, aquatic facilities, provincial sections, clubs and coaches in their roles leading a safe return to swimming. Swimming Canada has worked with its Aquatics Canada partners 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.

“Stepping away from the pool has been difficult but the efforts of all Canadians, including our athletes, coaches, and administrators, have played an important role in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic,” Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi said in the release. “Sport has the power to reunite and heal a nation. While we are all anxious to see our swimmers back in the water, we have a collective responsibility to ensure a safe return to the pool. We need to be creative and flexible as we re-imagine what that looks like for our sport. This framework is based on the best information available to begin doing that.”

The guide was developed by a 16-member working group chaired by operations director Brian Edey. It relied on guidance from national and provincial organizations, the Canadian Swimming Coaches Association, medical organization and an athlete representative, Jeremy Bagshaw. John Atkinson, Swimming Canada’s High Performance Director, was part of the committee. He’s also part of the National COVID-19 Return to High Performance Sport Task Force, orchestrated by Own the Podium.

The Return to Swimming document sets out recommendations and best practices for health monitoring, physical distancing, personal hygiene, use of equipment and flow of people through facilities. The plan begins with Step 1 protocols that should be “successfully implemented for a minimum of three weeks prior to moving to Step 2.” Step 1 includes one swimmer per short-course lane or two per long-course lane. It prioritizes, “mature athletes capable of independently adhering to strict physical distancing guidelines,” specifically Olympic/Paralympic-targeted athletes, senior national qualifiers and Masters swimmers.

Step 2, which also requires a minimum of three weeks of duration, includes up to four swimmers per double-lane (i.e. 12 in a six-lane pool partitioned into three lanes). Step 3 protocols, “will be developed and shared in subsequent versions” of the document, while Step 4 constitutes a return to full training after the pandemic.

The return to competition is “secondary to the return to training,” and guidelines will follow laying out that plan once facilities open more widely. The guide recommends virtual meets as a stand-in while continuing to decipher what competition will look like.

Swimming Through a Pandemic

The postponements and cancellations wrought by COVID-19 haven’t just affected the Olympics and the ranks of elite swimmers. They’ve trickled down to neighborhood clubs and summer youth leagues, affecting thousands of recreational and competitive swimmers alike. Here is some of our coverage of COVID-19’s effect on the American summer swimming calendar.

Resources for returning to the pool in the COVID-19 era

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