Swim Wales welcomes Welsh Government go ahead for return to Elite training
- National, Performance
Swim Wales would like to thank the Welsh Government for its support with COVID-19 to date, and in particular todays approval enabling the return to training for Elite level athletes.
Over the past four weeks, we have been working closely with the Welsh Sports Association, Sport Wales, Commonwealth Games Wales, Welsh Government, and many other National Governing Bodies to produce a proposal outlining how and when elite athletes can safely return to training. Following today’s announcement, we are now able to implement our planning to enable a select group of elite swimmers to return to training in Wales. We have also been working closely with facility providers to identify the best possible venue to host the elite return to training, and we thank all the providers who have contributed to this process.
Swim Wales have developed robust documentation, risk assessment and operating protocols in line with the Welsh Government guidance to provide meaningful training opportunities for our elite swimmers, with athlete and staff health and wellbeing as our number one priority. Given the unique and complex nature of the situation, we have undertaken an extremely thorough piece of planning to ensure we get this right, and we are working closely with British Swimming, Swim Scotland and Swim England through the Performance Implementation Group to ensure a level of consistency across the UK.
UK Government first published guidance relating to the return to elite sport on the 13th May, which due to the devolved nature of Government powers was only applicable to activity in England. British Swimming have subsequently done a fantastic job in mobilising training for a select group of athletes at the Bath and Loughborough National Centres, and we thank them for sharing their risk assessments, protocols and learnings from the first few weeks of activity, which has significantly helped us in producing our plans.
Who is eligible to return to training?
Guidance from Sport Wales and Commonwealth Games Wales (Team Wales) states: Those Welsh elite athletes who will be representing Wales at the highest level need to resume training soon to ensure the highest number qualifying for the Olympics, Paralympics and Commonwealth Games, and that their performances will make Wales proud. Elite athletes returning to training and the reopening of venues will be opened in cohorts. In the first phase a small number of elite athletes will resume training. If you cannot resume training in the first cohort, be patient, your time will come. Safety first: we need to get this ‘return to training’ right for wider sport to follow in time.
Under this guidance Swim Wales has determined the following criteria to define athlete eligibility to return to training in Cohort 1. Where the number of athletes in cohort 1 exceeds the facility capacity and medical provision capacity as determined by Sport Wales, athletes will be prioritised in the order shown below.
- Represented Great Britain at the 2019 World Championships or World Para Championships.
- Represented Great Britain at the 2018 European Championships or European Para Championships
- Selected to the British Swimming or British Para Swimming World Class Programme in 2019/20.
- Realistic Tokyo Olympic/Paralympic 2021 qualification opportunity – within 2% of estimated Olympic/Paralympic qualification performance level (based on long course performances since 1st January 2018).
- Represented Great Britain at the 2018 and/or 2019 European Junior or World Junior Championships and qualified for an individual final at either of those championships
The introduction of a second cohort of athletes will be considered if and when facility capacity, and medical provision capacity as determined by Sport Wales, can be increased.
Swim Wales has determined the following criteria to define athlete eligibility to return to training in Cohort 2, in priority order of:
- Any athletes meeting the Cohort 1 eligibility criteria unable to return to training due to prioritisation relating to facility and/or medical capacity
- Realistic Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games qualification opportunity – within 3% of estimated Swim Wales Commonwealth nomination performance level (based on long course performances since 1st January 2018).
For clarity, no athletes outside those named by Swim Wales will be covered by this guidance, and therefore they will not be permitted to train at this point. In addition eligible athletes will only be able to train at the designated venue under sessions operated by Swim Wales staff.
In the coming days, Swim Wales will be communicating with cohort 1 eligible athletes to provide more detail related to the designated venue, our risk mitigation processes and procedures and the associated timelines for their return to training.
Why can they resume training and not me?
We fully appreciate that this announcement only enables a very small part of the aquatic community to return, however we see this as a very important first step in the phased return to water for ALL aquatic activity. We will continue to work closely with venues and Sport Wales over the coming weeks to try to increase the facility and medical capacity that will enable cohort 2 to be considered for a return to training. Furthermore Swim Wales is currently working closely with Welsh Government and key partners, and developing relevant guidance, to ensure a safe return to water for ALL aquatic activity for eight additional user groups including club Swimming (Performance and Development Training), Learn to Swim & School Swimming Lessons, Community & Public Swimming, Volunteers & Officials, Artistic Swimming, Diving, Open Water Swimming and Water Polo.
Continue to stay safe,
National Performance Director, Swim Wales
19th June 2020