It has been a long year for swimmers in central Alberta.
Much like the rest of us, they’ve been waiting patiently to return to the thing they love most.
It was more than a year ago that the high-performance members of the Red Deer Catalina Swim Club took a trip down to San Diego, in anticipation of the competitive season of swimming at home.
Days before they were to hit the water for a provincial long-course meet, the province was shut down and the kids were left wondering when they’d get back to swimming.
“All our kids looked awesome, they were going to do really, really good things,” said Jenn Bahler, president of the Red Deer Catalina.
“Before their biggest meet of the year – seven days before we got shut down. For lots of those guys, it was a long course meet – a chance to make their times for university, as well as nationals. They haven’t been in a pool competing since then. It’s been tough and to try and keep these kids motivated and going.”
Many of the club’s swimmers were back in the pool last week and are hoping that Stage 2 of the province’s reopening plan, slated to start Thursday, will mean even more time in the pool.
Bahler said with the difficulties of the last year, the club has lost about 30 per cent of its membership. Most of the athletes who did start with the Catalina in the fall have stuck it out.
“We’ve been very fortunate. We lost members initially when the restrictions went down and we had some members not come back this year. If they came back this year, most of them have stuck it out with the club… But we’ve been able to maintain the kids we started in September, we’ve only had a handful of families leave throughout the year, that just couldn’t take the ups and downs,” she said.
“We have a few kids who have said they are not going to return in the fall. That they’ve lost interest in it now that they haven’t been in the pool and are going to try something different next year.”
Bahler said a huge credit goes to the coaching staff, led by head coach Lucien Zucchi for keeping the kids engaged throughout the ups and downs the past 10 months.
“Our coaching team has been remarkable. Coach Lucien and our entire team, I have nothing but phenomenal things to say about them. Every single time there’s been a change in restrictions, they’ve adapted,” Bahler said.
“If we can be outside, working out six feet apart, we are outside working out six feet apart. If we can’t because restrictions don’t allow it, we are on Zoom and working out.”
As for meets this summer, Bahler still isn’t sure what the future holds. She said approval still needs to come from Swim Alberta, as well as provincial and municipal authorities before anything goes ahead. But, she’s optimistic.
“I think there will be some clubs that try and do some competitions this summer. It’s all about what everybody is comfortable with,” she said.