‘A generation of swimmers fading away’

SWIMMING coach Nathan Jégou fears there could be a whole generation lost from the sport in the Island.

Jersey's swimming clubs are still not permitted to resume activity, despite school PE lessons taking place in Island pools Picture: Peter Frankland
Jersey's swimming clubs are still not permitted to resume activity, despite school PE lessons taking place in Island pools Picture: Peter Frankland

At present only schools and elite athletes on Team Jersey’s Commonwealth Games pathway are able to continue swimming at Les Quennevais, Haute Vallée and Langford, while all clubs, including Jégou’s Calligo Tigers, have had to put their programmes on hold again throughout a second Covid-19 lockdown.

Jégou concedes it could be a while before he sees activity in the pool return to normal.

‘The guys on the Commonwealth pathway have had a few sessions and are ticking by,’ he explained. ‘Being based in the UK they have been left in limbo, so they’ve all returned to Jersey until the schools reopen. We’ve got eight kids in total, swimmers and triathletes, who have been training.

‘The issue will be that once the swimming pools do open back here, there’s so many swimmers and so many swimming clubs, the pool time becomes pretty limited because you can only have X-amount there. Before Christmas, we could only have 20 in the pool and we had to double our pool time because we train a squad of 35. It can all get a bit messy to be honest.

‘After the last lockdown, we got something like a 96% return rate, which was fantastic, so the challenge for us is to repeat that again after the second lockdown.’

Jégou added: ‘For us, the hardest part is we’re dictated to because we have to hire out an indoor facility and there is a finite amount of swimming time that we can hire.

‘From the club’s perspective, we’ve got to make sure we’ve got enough money to survive. So while I want to make sure the guys who want to make the Commonwealths can swim, I’ve also got to realise that if 70% of the club don’t come back, there is no club. It’s that fine balance of getting things right. We’ve got 400 members at Tigers and pool hire is a massive outlay for us.’

For Jégou and his swimmers, it has been a case of a year lost without training or competition – something he thinks will have a significant impact to the detriment of the sport in years to come.

‘We’re conscious that the Island Games and the Commonwealth Games are not that far away and when you’ve had no competition for over a year like some of these guys, it’s going to be a killer,’ he said. ‘There’s going to be whole generation of swimmers who will have just faded away. I can’t see us getting off the Island to compete for a while.

‘I also really struggle to see how we are going to be able to raise the funds to compete again in regionals, nationals, inter-insulars – flights were already expensive – but first we’ll focus on getting back in the pool and putting on some local races. With travelling to Guernsey so strict, we probably won’t even be able to go over there for another year.’

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