2022 Commonwealth Games Diary by Gary Francis "Gaz" - First Edition
Commonwealth Games Diary
The FINA World Championships and IPC World Championships both seem a slightly distant memory now as Swimming New Zealand’s Commonwealth Games Team begins their preparation for the event starting on 28th July in Birmingham. Most of the Olympic pathway athletes have been mostly already here in Mallorca since the end of May but the official team camp actually started yesterday when the rest of the team including the Para Pathway athletes arrived direct from New Zealand.
With the exceptions of Erika and myself the team has been able to avoid any covid cases in the time we have been in Europe. The Australians, who shared training camp with us in Slovakia have not been so lucky, with either covid or other health issues. I think it is to our credit as a team, and our preparation, organisation and protocols that we avoided outbreaks of either covid or stomach bugs. Lewis and Helena definitely suffered with the latter, but again masking and social distancing prevented the rest of the team from contracting anything, and Erika was genuinely unlucky that she had prolonged contact with an Australian swimmer due to racing her several times and being next to her for long periods in call-rooms etc. I believe my covid infection was down to being surrounded by so many unconfirmed positive cases at the tail end of the World Championship during the Open Water competition.
I think the prevalence of covid at the World Championships was born out by the team members who returned to NZ at the end of the meet, with many of them testing positive shortly after getting home. The good news is that we have maintained good social distancing while in Mallorca, I myself spent the first 6 days isolated, and when the new team members arrived they remained separate from the rest of the team until the morning after their arrival and after they had all shown negative RAT’s. This was backed-up by the whole team taking a PCR test yesterday. The results showed no-one positive, except for me, which we anticipated would be the case having been only 15 days post-covid. All this isn’t to say we are not still vulnerable and every team member is very aware that covid could rule them out of competing if they were to test positive prior to the Games.
The preparation has not, of course, just started. The World Championships has served as an excellent run-in for many of the athletes, both Olympic and Paralympic alike, and those that have not been at their World Championships have either been racing in Europe at Mare Nostrum, in the USA in Indianapolis or coming straight from New Zealand after home based preparation. So as you can see the logistics of bringing the athletes together, insuring that all coaches, home based and team based, have clear communication and progress reports and that changing the guard with some team staff leaving and others arriving; the key has been solid organisation and excellent communication. Overall it has been just that. Graeme Maw has been excellent in the Team manager’s role, being very proactive at ensuring things run as smoothly as possible and making sure that athletes and coaches can focus on the job in hand. Alex Lowen left camp on the 7th July, having delivered excellent physio support to the team throughout Slovakia and Hungary and then during the first week in Mallorca. Megan Munro came in on the 11th and the notes and information passed from Alex to Megan was vital in ensuring a clean and smooth handover, allowing Megan to be able to know exactly where each athlete’s physical health was at.
The ‘new’ athletes to the Mallorca camp are now beginning to adjust not only to the long journey and 10 hour time difference but also to the very large change in environment. Today is 35 degrees in Mallorca and despite being right on the coast there is barely a breeze. Our training times haven’t been ideal up to now with some mid-afternoon sessions, but from today onwards we have a consistent 7-9am and 4-6pm schedule. Both times will still mean hot weather but the athletes should will still be able to ‘siesta’ during the hottest part of the day.
The actual training sessions are starting to really ramp up now and will continue to do so over the next week. Several athletes have already completed ‘suited’ swims this week, and the recovery protocols that each swimmer has are now even more crucial than ever as they need to make sure they are ready for their next key set. The support team of Graeme and Megan have set-up our ice bath on the front patio of the hotel (see photo) and are very busy trying to maintain a temperature of around 15 degrees despite the intense heat of the day. There is an excellent, workman-like, get-on-with-job approach about this team now. There is no need to talk too much about what is coming up, they already know. The time spent away this year has been worthwhile in that nearly all of these athletes are more seasoned and hardened, with clearer understanding that it is not just about how hard you work from 7-9 and 4-6 but everything you do before, after and in between…….as a group of young swimmers from Belgium found out last night when they woke Lewis up at 11pm!!!!!
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