Coronavirus: David Davies and Jazz Carlin want Welsh pools to open

Olympic medlalists Davies and Carlin say opening swimming pools is vital for schools and athletes

Two of Wales' most successful swimmers - Jazz Carlin and David Davies - want public swimming pools to be reopened.

The Welsh Government has yet to allow pools to do so while the Covid-19 lockdown has eased for other sports.

Swimming teacher Davies fears children are not being given the chance to hone their skills while Carlin agrees and argues it can boost mental health.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "Our focus is on helping to save lives."

Carlin won two Olympic silver medals as well as European and Commonwealth gold while Davies is a former Olympic silver and bronze medallist and Commonwealth Games champion.

They share concerns with Englishman Adam Peaty - an Olympic champion - over people missing out on the benefits of swimming as pools remain closed under UK Government rules in England and Welsh Government directives in Wales.

"We teach swimming to the kids as a curriculum activity and they haven't had that exposure to the pool for four months," said Davies.

"So not only are they missing all their schoolwork that, they're missing this part of it as well.

"Swimming is a life skill at the end of the day, and these kids are missing the opportunity to learn to swim.

"We're coming into the summer months now, it's hot outside, kids are going to beaches and lakes and it's dangerous.

"We can, you know, potentially help save lives."

Jazz Carlin
Jazz Carlin won 400m freestyle gold at 2014 European Championships

Carlin contends swimming can also provide added mental health benefits.

"Away from all the kind of competitive side of it, it's actually been my 'happy place'," said Carlin.

"It's been a place to escape the kind of everyday stresses and when I had a lot going on as a youngster.

"It's always been a really kind of calming place for me to go and so I think it's just going to be very difficult for swimmers.

"I do worry, a lot of kids are actually learning to swim at school and relying on those kind of lessons. When are they going to start getting back to normal?"

Carlin added: "I know a lot of clubs will be really disappointed and I feel it. I completely feel it for them. I think it'd be nice to know when it's going to be open."

Former European and Commonwealth gold medallist Carlin also fears that the long period of pool closures may see some swimmers not return at all.

"I do worry that swimmers might not actually go back to train and they might have tried other sports," she said.

"They might think that they don't want to go back. If I was going through this it'd be very difficult.

"Obviously we all want to do it safely and we all want to look out for everyone. So I think as long as safety measures are in place I don't see any reason why pools can't open."

'A lower risk doesn't mean no risk'

The Welsh Government spokesperson stated: "Wales remains in the midst of a public health emergency.

"Our focus is on helping to save lives and people's health and wellbeing is at the forefront of our minds.

"The latest scientific and medical advice continues to guide our gradual approach to easing restrictions and we will carefully monitor the impact of each change.

"Welsh Government, Swim Wales and key partners are in the process of developing relevant guidance, to ensure a safe return to water for all aquatic activity,"

The Welsh Government spokesperson said some indoor and outdoor facilities are still not allowed to open because they "are learning more about the virus every day and we know the risk of transmission is lower outdoors than indoors.

"However, a lower risk doesn't mean no risk. Even in these circumstances it is vital we all maintain social distancing so we can continue to tackle the spread of this virus.

"Some outdoor facilities carry a greater risk of transmission where surfaces or equipment are shared between people, such as playgrounds and outdoor gyms.

"Enclosed, managed, sports pitches should remain closed until team sports can resume."

David Davies
David Davies swam at three Olympic Games, two Commonwealth Games and the 2008 Open Water World Championships

Fearing for the elite

A small group of elite swimmers in Wales could return to a pool sooner than the general public as the Welsh Government has given special dispensation for Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls to resume training.

But Carlin and Davies share worries for the elite swimmers whose pool training has been on hold since March.

Beijing 2008 Olympics silver medallist Davies said: "They say that for every week you had off it would take you two weeks to get back.

"So for these guys if they've missed the four months - it could take about eight months just to get back and that's going to be challenging."

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