Swimmers embrace YOG spirit

27 August 2014

SWIMMING: The Games may be almost over but youth swimmers from around the world have demonstrated that the spirit is still well and truly alive after banding together for a combined training session at the Wutaishan training pool on Tuesday.

Spearheaded by Australian swim coaches Tracey Menzies and Dean Boxall, 93 swimmers and their coaches from across 32 nations embodied the essence of the Youth Olympic Games and trained together for over an hour and a half in what Menzies says was a world first.

“It has been one of my most memorable moments on a deck, what we did was pretty special in terms of bringing athletes, coaches and people together for the common goals in sport,” Menzies said.

“Never have I seen all nations come together and do a same session, never.”

Leading the charge, Boxall from Queensland organised an on land session which included abdominal and strength exercises before getting the athletes in the pool for an intense workout.

However the Aussie coach says while he worked the swimmers hard, the session was never about technique and fitness.

 “Tracey and I all week have been congratulating countries on great performances and we weren’t just all about our little inner sanctum and we wanted to express to the kids that there is good swimming, very good swimming and you have to make sure that they acknowledge it and we all come into the pool and coaches were on one side, in different corners and we just said we’ve got to get everyone together,” he said.

“Everybody had to know everybody’s name in the group, in their lane, and they were all smiling and there was people working and I thought it was very good.”

“This is YOG, you are supposed to be able to bring young people together in the world of sport with the same interest all bias removed, religious beliefs and all that stuff ... It was about everyone coming together, that was the goal,” Menzies added.

Australian swimmer’s Ami Matsuo and Ella Bond says it was invaluable experience, one they think should become a bit of a tradition.

“It was really interesting trying to train with everyone and all the other different cultures and just trying to make friends at same time with the different countries as well so I think it was a really good experience and I would love to do it again sometime,” Matsuo said.

““Everyone does stuff differently, everyone is coached by a different coach and we come from different countries so it was good to see what everyone did differently to you and learn from them,” Bond said.

“I think it would be a really good thing to keep doing around the world and get everyone together and train together at these kinds of meets.”

However, looking around the pool it was clear the other nations were enjoying the whole experience just as much as the Aussie’s were.

“I think the Youth Olympics has been a really social competition,” Jesse Washington, a swimmer from Bermuda said.

“It was a great experience, seeing everyone train together you can see how fast everyone is and how talented everyone is too.”

 “It was actually quite fun because you don’t really talk to them [other nations] and you don’t get to mix and you have this kind of prejudice view on them but when you actually start mixing with them you find out that they are actually really nice people so I actually quote enjoyed it,” South African swimmer Christopher Reid added.

While it was fun and something a bit different for many of the athletes, for some it was an invaluable learning experience that they may never have had the opportunity to have experienced if it weren’t for the leadership of the Australians.

Tongan swimmer Calina Ana Christina Panuve does not have a pool in her home country so trains in the Ocean which means she has never experienced a training session quite of the calibre that was delivered on Tuesday.

“I wanted her to experience what it was like to be in a real session... I’m glad that she is here it is good for her to see how real session’s are run and also to mix and mingle with the other kids,” her coach James Panuve said.

“I think this will encourage her and motivate her to keep swimming up I mean it’s pretty hard swimming in the ocean, there is no real facilities and we don’t even have a national competition yet but we do some trial swims but you can’t really tell if it is a real 50m so hopefully it will inspire her and we will be able to send her to some training camps overseas.”

It wasn’t only the athletes soaking up the atmosphere, the coaches were loving every minute of the session, using the time to share tips and ideas.

“I think this is invaluable for the swimmers but also the coaches as well to experience what other countries and nations do and obviously with Australia and Japan two of the best nations in the pool offering advice on both land work and swimming I think there is a lot to be shared and it’s just a great experience for everyone,” Simon Jones, coach of the Philippines said.

“There is a lot of opportunity for people to learn and I think at the moment people are very willing to learn and I think it is really in the spirit of the Youth Olympics there is a lot of sharing of ideas and philosophies  and really trying to keep the swimmers engaged and in the sport longer term and also I think the coaches as well, it is a long journey and a long process and things like this just help keep them engaged and enjoying the sport.”

“You saw the coaches just sitting and talking and then they got up and mixed and yeah we are telling the kids that they have got to be yogging and now you’ve got all these coaches yogging their details and sharing ideas,” Menzies added.

“I think that’s how people grow, you need to be able to share information and share knowledge we’ve definitely opened the door for that and I think that’s a good thing.”


Laura Judd



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