I want to begin by wishing all competitors, their parents, our coaches and teachers, committee and sub-committees, and all members-including Masters, a very Happy New Year. Two thousand and twenty one should eventually be much better than 2020 because of the roll out of the vaccines. However, it is obvious that it will take some months to get out of the present serious situation. Meanwhile let’s be as positive as possible!
Thank you all for your efforts and major enthusiasm in 2020. Swimmers- you did far more land work than in previous years, and this increased athleticism transferred to the pool, allowing you to maintain or even improve competitive times. We will continue with remote exercise sessions this month. If you have ideas of other things the club might offer, then let us know.
Competitive swimmers are by definition extremely organised individuals. They have to be to balance academic life at school or college with the demands of elite swimming. (And they are often the best scholars!) With lockdowns and remote learning it may be necessary to plan your own days. The most important thing is not to feel isolated either academically, swimming-wise or socially. Ask questions! Keep in regular contact with your friends.
Several of you are in your Leaving Certificate year. If you are finding the demands of swimming too much, then work out a reduced programme with your coaches. But do not quit altogether! You have probably heard about the findings of an English neurologist that aerobic exercise improves brain function and academic performance. We hope you will continue to swim for the next few years. Most people can improve greatly in their early 20s with a good programme. Let us know if we can help with future choices!
You were all very enthusiastic in the pre-Christmas time trials. Unfortunately, the progress of the pandemic prevented these from being completed properly. The Swim Ireland idea was to introduce a virtual competition between clubs, including those from Britain. The first competitions allowed this spring will probably be intra club time trials and your coaches will work with SI to introduce a major inter-club competitive element.
When you got back in the water in early December it was envisaged that the SC Nationals would go ahead. Twenty eight of our swimmers qualified-a record number! However this format was cancelled because of the disease situation, much to the disappointment of most of our Senior squad. The meet went ahead in NAC Dublin in a much reduced form, restricted to elite swimmers (National squad members) and Paralympic Tokyo “possibles”. It was also decided to run SC events in the morning and LC of the same events in the evening. This is an arrangement that had been run in the USA earlier in 2020 and is very tough for the swimmers. We had two swimmers involved; Andrew Feenan who is on the National Squad and has been training in NAC Limerick with John Szaranek since the end of the first lockdown in July and is enrolled in UL, and Paralympian Sean O’Riordan who is in 3rd Speech & Language Therapy in UCC and holds a Sports Scholarship there. Andrew recorded a great series of breast stroke PBs-the 50, 100 and 200 LC; and 100 and 200 SC, where his 1:02.01 and 2:14.30 were club records. This was in a meet where there were very few PBs. Sean recorded PBs in the 50 freestyle and breaststroke and was near his best in the 400 SC free, but struggled in the LC event; the latter demonstrating the effect of the lockdown on fitness for longer events. Much more difficult qualifying times have been introduced for the Tokyo Paralympics than for the previous World Championships (in which Sean qualified), and the 400 freestyle is the only event in which he is in reach of qualifying.
Meanwhile our US member Liam Custer was far less affected by lockdown since he trains in a club-controlled outdoor 50m pool in Florida with Sarasota Sharks. This pool is 25 yards wide and was set up during 2020 with a large number of SCY lanes with two swimmers in each maximising social distancing by starting from opposite ends. Outdoor meets were also possible and Liam recorded a remarkable series of LCM times in late autumn (Free: 200 1:55.46; 400 3:58.14; 800 8:09.69; 1500 15:35.69; 200 Back 2:05.29; 400 IM 4:28.23). Both the 800 and 1500 qualify for the US Olympic trials and importantly surpass the current Irish Junior Records. These records are for U19 swimmers and Liam is currently 16! We look forward to him swimming with SWSC when he is next permitted to visit Ireland.