The impact of COVID-19 lockdown regulations on aquatics in Africa has been significant, with many swimmers unable to compete – or even train properly in some countries – for more than a year. CANA’s chief objective was to give swimmers from its federations quality time in the pool with some of its best coaches.
Hosted by Train Camp at the Stellenbosch University Aquatics Centre, the camp drew athletes from as far as France and Thailand – where Malawian Amarra Pinto trains as a Scholarship swimmer at the Thanyapura FINA Training Centre.
Staged within a strictly managed bio-bubble in the Cape Winelands town of Stellenbosch near Cape Town, the camp delivered a week of intense focus in the pool. After a year without competitive swimming, the athletes worked hard to make up for lost time and better some personal bests. Between training sessions CANA also took the opportunity to provide information and education, with SAIDS (South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport) streaming their seminar to the swimmers’ hotel.
Coaches from nine of the 22 countries joined the camp, and were enthusiastic about the chance to work with their peers on the pool deck. A presentation in the nearby village of Franschhoek on preparing swimmers for international competition gave these coaches a rare opportunity to safely leave the camp bio-bubble, and was particularly well received.
The camp culminated with a CANA Grand Prix meet, where the swimmers were joined by athletes from Swimming SA – including Olympic gold medallist Chad le Clos. For the South Africans the event was another chance to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo – and Matthew Sates (RSA) touched the wall in 1:59.02 for the 200m individual medley to book his place on the team. The participants in the camp were reaping rewards from their hard work during the week, with many swimmers taking a big step forward in performance – and 14-year old Jamila Boulakbech knocked an impressive 11 seconds off her personal best in the 400m freestyle to break the Tunisian record.
The Training Camp and the Qualifying Event could be organised thanks to the joint efforts of FINA, CANA and Swimming South Africa, who provided the economic and logistic support to ensure that all Federations within the continent could participate in the event.
The Grand Prix was also attended by CANA President and FINA Second Vice-President Dr Sam Ramsamy, CANA Secretary-General and FINA Bureau Member Dr Mohamed Diop and CANA Treasurer-General Jace Naidoo.
The feedback we’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive, and the coaches were inspired by the experience. We are definitely considering making this CANA train camp an annual event.
This week has been great for African swimming. The pandemic is deeply challenging on many levels, but we’re excited by what we’ve seen in the pool today. With so many countries working together, the future of swimming development on the continent is looking bright.