Swim school struggles in the cold

By Dong Cao

IN a corner of the Pakuranga College grounds, water sprays in an eight-lane pool as swimmers plunge into their turns.

Cold wind on this late winter afternoon does little to help these dedicated and talented young swimmers, whose potential is severely compromised by the lack of adequate training facilities.

Alex Hancock, a national youth champion, qualified for next week's Youth Commonwealth Games at the Isle of Man, but he is struggling with his sporting career.

"Currently we train in a 33m pool (the Pakuranga College pool) but all the major competitions are in 50m pools," he says.

"We train in three-quarters of the distance for each lane, and it means we are not rehearsing what we should be doing."

Individually catered training sessions are also the key for more senior swimmers such as 20-year-old Carsten Corazza.

The national champion is aiming to compete in next year's London Olympics, but says he needs more training space for specific sessions.

He has just returned from the World University Games in China: "Watching some of the top athletes and talking to a few of them, it's a very important part of their training to have those facilities and resources available to them."

At present, the only 50m pool available to swimmers for competitive training in Auckland is on the Millennium Institute Pool at Mairangi Bay on the North Shore.

As a result, Mt Wellington Swimming Club is asking the area's local boards for their support to heat the 50m outdoor pool at the Lagoon Leisure Centre in Panmure.

Club president Max Walker presented their request to Maungakiekie Local Board on Tuesday, with a petition signed by more than 1000 local residents.

He says for swimmers like Alex and Carsten, it is impossible to travel to the North Shore for early morning training, and then to fight rush-hour traffic to get to college or university. Google Maps offers two routes - 35km or 47km - and optimistically lists the travelling time as 41 minutes each way for the shorter route.

"Having to repeat the performance for 5pm evening training only makes it worse. They will be dead," says Mr Walker.

The club supports Lagoon pool because it is shallow: "It is not used for water polo or other water sports and they (swimmers) can realistically get here to use the pool."

Coach Gary Hollywood is frustrated by the lack of support from local bodies.

He says he has a responsibility to his athletes: "I emigrated here to improve the level of swimming in New Zealand," says the Irishman. "But I'm not getting the necessary resources and tools to give the swimmers the best opportunity to succeed."

In his view people making decisions do not have the background or knowledge of coaches.

The club is not expecting to hear a response from the local board until it has considered all submissions, which close next week.

Mr Walker says the club has found a very supportive funder who was prepared to help fund the heating if its submissions were unsuccessful.

He estimates it would cost around $600,000 to heat the pool, but $3.5 million to build a new pool.

- The Aucklander

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