Swimming coach calls for pools to be reopened for stars

A file photo of Tatjana Schoenmaker celebrating with teammate Kaylene Corbett at the Commonwealth Games.
A file photo of Tatjana Schoenmaker celebrating with teammate Kaylene Corbett at the Commonwealth Games.
Image: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

Pretoria-based swimming coach Rocco Meiring says it’s vital his two breaststroke stars‚ Tatjana Schoenmaker and Kaylene Corbett‚ get back into the water as soon as possible.

The lockdown-enforced period of land-based training‚ which has continued for more than 50 days‚ was taking its toll‚ he warned. 

Meiring is supporting the call by SA head coach Graham Hill for pools to be reopened for Olympic squad swimmers to train‚ even if it is under strict conditions. 

He said Schoenmaker — the first SA woman to win a world championship swimming medal when she claimed the 200m breaststroke silver last year — was at risk of losing her world-beating form. 

Corbett‚ who finished eighth in the final‚ picked up hip and knee injuries‚ he added. 

“Since 2017 the most extended break Tatjana ever took from training was 14 days‚” Meiring said in a statement issued by Tuks Sport.

“It has now been 56 days in which I could not really coach her. 

“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise it is going to have a severe impact on her performance. 

“I don’t even want to contemplate what will happen if another four weeks lapse before she is allowed to swim.”

Public pools have been shut because of the lockdown aimed at flattening the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Training in private pools is not possible‚ at least in Gauteng‚ because of the cold temperature. 

“Swimmers are the only athletes who can’t train on land‚” Meiring added.

“It took Kaylene Corbett two years of huge sacrifices and long hard hours in the pool to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games. 

“After she had done that she was super-motivated to be at her best. It is that dedication that led to her getting injured. 

“When the lockdown started she continued to give 100% when training. But it was on land. She ended up paying for it.

“It is going to take time for her to fully recover and regain confidence in her body’s abilities.

"The reality is that no breaststroke swimmer who wants to perform at the highest level can afford knee or hip injuries.”

Meiring said it was critical for the coronavirus-enforced lockdown restrictions on pools to be eased for elite competitors. 

“We ask our top athletes to bleed for us in battle‚ sacrifice their youth to prepare for years to represent us and inspire us under extreme pressure … that is why now we need to be bold‚ brave and daring for our athletes.”​