Pools reopening brings sense of normalcy, focus for Saskatoon Olympic hopefuls
SASKATOON -- The Saskatoon Goldfins swim club assembled outside of Riversdale outdoor pool on Tuesday morning — in several small groups, while adhering to physical distancing — to be the first swimmers to hit the water in 2020.
“We’re excited,” said Goldfins coach Steven Hitchings. “Didn’t even need any coffee this morning.”
Riversdale and George Ward are the outdoor pools opening in Saskatoon this week, as part of Phase 4.2 of Re-Open Saskatchewan.
“This is probably the best day of quarantine so far,” said swimmer Blake Tierney.
His sister Shanna echoed his excitement, but admitted she felt some hesitancy.
“We’re a little bit nervous about being around each other,” she said. “So there’s precautions we need to take.”
“We’re trying to follow Swim Canada, Swim Saskatchewan, there’s some very comprehensive documents out there,” said Hitchings, referring to COVID-19 guidelines upon returning to the pool.
“We’re doing our best to follow them and we’re coming back with the smaller group sizes and really short pool sessions. Just making sure we can do it really, really safely before expanding on things.”
For the Tierney siblings, it’s not only a return to the pool after a long layoff — four months is the longest stretch either of them can remember where they weren’t swimming — it’s a return to chasing after Olympic dreams.
They had both qualified for Canada’s Olympic swimming trials this past spring, for the opportunity to compete at the Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan. The trials, and the games themselves, were pushed back a year because of COVID-19, and while they will automatically qualify for the 2021 trials in Toronto come April, the preparation in the pool officially begins now.
“It’s definitely nerve wracking that I’m going to have to try and make up for four months of training in a few months,” said Shanna. “But I think that I’ve been trying to stay in pretty good shape, and Steven has been hosting Zoom meetings everyday.”
“March 16 they shut the pool, and I think by March 18 we had some online engagement and training going,” said Hitchings.
Those sessions including working with resistance bands, as well as pushups and cardio, while the Tierneys took it upon themselves to run and bike together during their layoff.
Despite a return to the pool and a sense of normalcy, their approach to training and practice will inevitably change in the face of the pandemic, as will their competition schedule.
“The season plan will look a little differently, where we’re going to have our peak meets at different spots,” said Hitchings.
“Starting off slow, making sure I don’t injure myself, and making sure my technique is perfect,” said Blake. “Same goal, same motivation, it’s just a little bit farther away.”
The 2021 Summer Olympic Games are set to begin next July.