FINA takes action, will provide Scholarships for Athletes
In 2014, FINA will provide scholarships for Athletes, Youth Athletes and set up a Development of National Sport Structure programme. At its latest meeting in Cancun, Mexico on March 1-2, the FINA Bureau approved the new programmes, etching an important milestone for the development of Aquatics worldwide. Over the 2014-2017 period, FINA’s budget for these three programmes will amount to nearly USD 7 million.
Up to now, FINA’s development programmes focused on coaches and officials. In 2013, FINA together with its member federations organised 34 schools and 43 clinics in the five disciplines – Swimming, Diving, Water Polo, Synchronised Swimming and Open Water Swimming – across all continents. In Cancun, the FINA Bureau rallied to include High Diving as well. FINA clinics train coaches from beginner to advanced levels while FINA schools provide training and certification to judges and referees.
In June, FINA will organise the 11th FINA World Swimming Officials Seminar in Miami, Florida with the participation of officials from all member federations.
In April 2010, FINA also launched the Swimming Coaches Certification, which was met by a wave of enthusiasm with a record 200 coaches attending the first course held in Bogota, Colombia. U.S. swim coach Rick Powers was the first FINA-appointed lecturer for this programme.
“You’ll always find a few young coaches who are excited; you can see that on their faces,” Powers says.
Coaches from 14 countries, including Zambia, Croatia, Malaysia, Jamaica and Brunei, have since then benefited from the three-level certification programme, which aims at developing a universal terminology for coaches around the world.
A member of the IOC Sport for All Commission since 1992 and Olympic Solidarity since 2002, FINA President Dr. Julio C. Maglione sheds light on the international federation’s current development strategy and how it has evolved over time:
“If, in the past, these programmes were essentially technical and focused on officials and coaches, we have now shifted to the core of the Aquatics protagonists, our Athletes. FINA’s new initiatives will also be tailored to fit their needs and to ensure their continued progression."
The athlete is the focus
At the 2012 London Games, the Olympic Solidarity supported 94 FINA athletes (39 women and 55 men) from a total 61 countries (13 from Africa, 17 from America, 10 from Asia, 18 from Europe and three from Oceania).
Among them, Chad Le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh. Both went down in South Africa’s swimming history after winning an Olympic gold medal, van der Burgh being the nation’s first swimmer to accomplish this feat in an individual swimming event (100m breaststroke).
Alia Atkinson(JAM) - credit: Giorgio Scala
Similarly, FINA’s Scholarships for Athletes will provide financial support to talented swimmers in their preparation and qualification for the FINA World Championships. Scholarship holders get the opportunity to maximise their potential while benefiting from top-level coaching expertise and world-class facilities.
The experience athletes draw from training and living abroad as part of a wealth of talents in an international environment is often decisive on the road to success. The programme targets swimmers and national federations with the greatest needs in FINA’s six aquatic sports. FINA’s objective is to provide up to 40 scholarships per year.
Rick Powers, who has coached swimming for 42 years in ten different countries, tells why scholarships for standout swimmers are so helpful:
“At a certain point, every talented swimmer in a developing country must leave the country and go somewhere else because swimming is a sport where you must be challenged.”
The Scholarships for Youth Athletes will assist young prospects from all five continents in the lead up to the 12th FINA World Swimming Championships, organised in Doha, Qatar from December 3-7, 2014.
Two training camps are scheduled, the first in June and the second just before the start of the Championships, at Doha’s splendid Hamad Aquatic Centre, a landmark of the city’s Aspire Zone.
The other novelty of this year’s FINA development plan is the Development of National Sport Structure programme. In order to help a member federation develop or improve its national sports and coaching structure, a FINA-appointed expert will visit the country three times over a 3 to 6-month period to assist the federation and ensure continuous progress. This year, the programme will be run in ten countries (2 per continent), where basic swimming and coaching structure is identified as weak but with clear potential for development.
Building legacy, off the beaten track
Since 2007, FINA provides travel and accommodation assistance to its member federations, 204 to date, for the World Championships and other main events.
At the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona, no less than 177 national federations benefited from FINA’s financial support. Clearly a pioneer among the international sport federations to do so, FINA not only increases the number of nations taking part in its biggest events but also, and most importantly, allows athletes, coaches and officials from developing swimming countries to build on invaluable experience, which will impact on the athletes’ performances and motivation back home.
“This support is decisive for our member federations. It leads to more young athletes practising our sport in those countries. We have successful examples of national federations that started very modestly and are now evolving in a very promising way,” Dr. Julio C. Maglione says.
Opening ceremony at 2012 Istanbul World Short-Course Championships - credit: Giorgio Scala
If one considers FINA World Championships from 2009 to 2013, plus Youth and Olympic Games within that same period, Kenya, Tanzania and Tunisia are the three African countries (excluding South Africa) with the highest participation rate: 34, 26 and 31, respectively.
In the same way, FINA’s Universality rule allows athletes, even with no standard entry times, to take part in the World Championships.
“It has always been a FINA (and Olympic) aim to develop Universality. There aren’t many sports that are really universal, and we are privileged to be one of them,” the FINA President says.
2014 bodes well for the future of Aquatics and the development of FINA’s six aquatic disciplines worldwide. The palette of effective development programmes and events targeting coaches, officials and now athletes and national federations is an important stepping stone to move FINA’s mission forward.