Following the Ministry of Health (MoH) and FINA (World Aquatics Federation) guidelines regarding the Covid-19 virus remains the priority for the Amateur Swimming Association of Trinidad and Tobago (ASATT) as the local aquatic association navigates a tumultuous 2020.
Local meets have been postponed and/or cancelled; regional meets (Carifta, CCCAN and Goodwill Swimming Championships) have also been cancelled; and local clubs—dependent mostly on renting from private facilities for their programmes and survival—have become non functional owing to pool access restrictions.
ASATT PRO Gresha Gonzales said the Association has been keeping local clubs up to date with the latest guidelines by MoH, FINA and UANA (Swimming Union of the Americas). She admitted though, that financially, with the lack of access to pools, it has been a difficult period for local clubs. On Saturday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced a phased lifting of restrictions, but maintained that there will be no team sports allowed as he urged the nation to continue practicing social distancing and proper hygiene.
“Members of the public will be allowed to engage in restricted outdoor activities. This would exclude team activities or contact sport activities and any activity that require or encourage gatherings. It means that you could come out to walk, you could hike or could do whatever, but bear in mind certain other things remain,” Dr Rowley said.
“Don’t congregate in groups of more than five and if you are near to people keep the distance of six feet away, those things still remain,” he added.
While swimmers remain ‘beached’ for the time being, Gonzales said they have adjusted their training to remain active and ready for a restart whenever it’s announced. “Everybody has been affected internationally, regionally, locally,” she said. “It’s almost nine weeks since swimmers have been in water and from what I am aware, clubs have been sending out dry land programmes; some of them using the Zoom (video conferencing) platform. But they (clubs) are not allowed to go in the pool and they have no access to pools…so from a financial aspect, if you were a full time swim coach or a club owner, more than likely you would have been affected financially with reduced fees because of Covid-19.”
She said the ASATT executive was also cognisant of the effect on swimmers who would have had to forego national team participation this year with the cancellation of Carifta, CCCAN and Goodwill, with some swimmers now advancing to the first and lower year of their age-group and some ageing out next year.
“It’s been a massive disruption to everyone. That is quite unfortunate as some of these swimmers would have been looking to gain medals and break records in their final year of the age group,” Gonzales said.
“They are not guaranteed moving up next year that they will even achieve time standards for the new age group so it is unfortunate and it is something that would have affected not only our kids but all swimmers throughout the region.”
She said while the executive had been in constant contact over Whatsapp and email and while they have been supplying the necessary updates and guidelines through email to the clubs and council, she expected the executive to meet via Zoom within two weeks and then forward suggestions and plans for discussion with the wider council membership thereafter.
“I have seen some proposals (from sources in USA swimming) about how to use 6-8 lane pools in different ways while still maintaining protocols suggested for safety from the virus. But we locally haven’t reached that stage yet. Those are part of the discussions we are planning on having with the membership in the coming weeks so that when that time comes and coaches and swimmers have access to pools again and can re-start their programmes, we will be ready.”
She said there will be a new normal where how people interact around aquatic facilities and the local swimming fraternity will have to prepare for that scenario. Those scenarios could include a much reduced swimmer-to-lane ratio, staggered sessions to ensure proper spacing and new behaviour rules for facilities.