CHENNAI: A dip in the pool or a lake is synonymous to summer fun, as water is often considered comforting and energising. For lots of people, swimming is not just a pastime or a respite from the scorching heat, but a ritual that cleanses the body of climatic woes.
However, this has been a summer of discontent not just for the elite but also the amateur swimmers, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Barring all-weather pools that are few and far between, swimming season in the country begins in March or April and ends in September-October.
Although sports complexes and stadia are planning for resumption of activities, gymnasiums and swimming pools all over the country remain under lockdown. In Chennai, which continues to be Tamil Nadu’s coronavirus epicentre, reopening pools might take a little longer.
Although there is no evidence that the virus which causes COVID-19 can spread to people through water in swimming pools, interacting with others, sharing the locker room, touching surfaces like doorknobs and shower handles pose a threat.
The biggest concern for the Tamil Nadu State Aquatic Association (TNSAA) is getting the swimmers back to full fitness after this period of lull. Complacency and laziness could also undo much of the hardwork put in by the swimmers.
"When children have such a long break, getting back to fitness will take time. A majority of them will not have done anything (in terms of fitness) at home during this summer. So getting back to shape is the challenging part. One child told me, 'Sir, I used to wake up at 4.30 am and go for swimming. No way, I get up at 8 am.' For the child to get back to the 4.30 regime is going to take a while," said Sadayavel Kailasam, president of TNSAA and Madras District Aquatic Association (MDAA).
Reopening of aquatic complexes and training facilities for swimmers will depend on how the Tamil Nadu government relaxes norms. With Chennai alone reporting more than 10,000 positive cases, Kailasam doesn’t see the situation changing at least for a month.
The TNSAA is planning to hold a meeting next week to decide the new guidelines before opening the pools. "Our summer camps, training, everything has gone haywire. We had plans to conduct a nationallevel tournament in June. I don’t think anything will happen till the end of June," explained the president.
"I don’t know how they will maintain social distancing. There will be spitting and water infection. We have to start with caution. We will probably begin with limiting the entry to just the competitive swimmers initially and not allow beginners and kids to the pool. Once we come up with a new time table, we will know our plans moving forward," he said.