Swimming community of The Bahamas seeks answers on opening of facility
It has been almost two months since local swimmers have utilized the Betty Kelly-Kenning National Swim Complex at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre in New Providence. Now, parents are seeking answers from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Ministry of Health as to when their children can resume training at the pool.
According to one of the parents, on August 3, they were told that the swimmers cannot train at the facility until further notice. At that time, the COVID-19 cases in The Bahamas were into a second wave. Up to yesterday, there was no word as to when swimmers can resume training.
Parents were expecting their children to resume training from last week Monday or even this week but they still have not gotten any word. The last communication to the National Sports Authority (NSA), which governs all national sporting facilities, was on September 10.
An attempt was made to reach out to the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture but an official did not want to speak on record as to the resumption of training and the use of the facility. NSA General Manager Quinton Brennen said he returned to office last week and will look into the matter. Bahamas Aquatics Federation (BAF) President Algernon Cargill was unavailable for comment.
Regina Austin, whose name has been changed, said the swimming community did everything that was asked of them to restart swimming at the national facility.
“It has been months since we have been trying to use the pool. We had initially gotten access to the pool then when we shut down the last time (early July), they told us what we needed to await a decision and we did that. They needed protocols and new guidelines. The Ministry of Health made some suggestions and we did that, and we submitted it,” she said.
The parent of a swimmer added that they were not given a date to restart and the NSA informed them that they were waiting on approval from the Ministry of Health. As far as she is aware, she said they have not gotten a response from the ministry.
Head Coach for the Sea Waves Swimming Club, Shirley Mireault, said the Betty Kelly-Kenning facility is the only facility that her club uses. They have not used their home pool, at the South Beach Pools, since 2016.
“We have an outdoor facility and we can’t get in,” Mireault said. “We used all the COVID-19 protocols that the NSA had asked us to allow these swimmers in earlier this year. On July 1, they allowed all the competitive swimmers with the regulations and now they won’t give us the pool back.”
Another parent, Penelope Dean, whose name has also been changed, said that this is a crucial time for the swimmers.
“I am aware that the federation did in fact make the recommendation to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture,” she said. “This is such a critical time right now. We need a pool to train but the swimmers have been locked out. This is impacting all the programs in New Providence. I don’t know how long it takes for the government ministry to respond to a responsible federation that has put forward all of the information outlining the protocols and best practices. It is the end of September and our swimmers are in limbo.”
As for when she wants to get her club back at the facility, Mireault said since last week.
“We were supposed to be in the water last week Monday,” she said. “Our kids have missed a whole month again. The kids had a longer break than they are accustomed to. The spring was their summer break. We normally get two or three weeks. We got back in the water and are hopeful. They have missed about five months. We had about four weeks in the water and now we have been out of the water for almost two months. We are just itching to get back in the water. We do not see why we are held out and other things are going on. My club followed all of the regulations such as no parents allowed in the facility, kids use the bathroom only if they desperately have to go in them and they come in their swimsuit and leave in their swimsuit.”
At Barracudas, where Dean has her children, she said they have taken the necessary precautions from when the national facility was briefly opened in May.
“Our swimmers cannot return unless they complete a COVID-19 questionnaire that will help to ensure that none of our swimmers are, or their immediate families have been, exposed to COVID-19. That is something that we implemented before they returned to practice. We ensure that there was social distancing. When they did go back in May, the swimmers were responsible and they understood and followed the protocols and there were no instances of it,” Dean said.
Austin said that some swimmers are not able to get in the amount of distance swimming they need to get in for the week, as they do not have access to the national facility, which houses the only 50-meter pool on the island. Without that, the swimmers are not able to undergo long course training. Those who have access to other pools are in a 25m pool while others are not practicing at all.
The parents and the swimming community are continually looking for answers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States of America, they are not aware of any scientific reports of the virus that causes COVID-19 spreading to people through the water in pools.