Charlottetown Bluephins return to Bell Aliant Centre 'like coming to a brand new pool,' says coach
The aquatics club was out of the pool for months due to facility repairs and the pandemic
The stillness of the water in the competitive pool at the Bell Aliant Centre was broken as the first swimmer with the Charlottetown Bluephins Aquatic Club plunged in at a Wednesday night practice.
The club uses the facility in Charlottetown as their home pool — a place that they were unable to use for months due to closures during the pandemic and facility repairs.
They were finally able to meet in the leisure pool at the centre in late November, and then the competitive pool at the end of December.
"It felt really good," said Bluephins swimmer Elena LeClair. "I had already been in the water at Montague but to get back in our home pool and see my friends again — it was really, a really great thing."
"We got out of here on March 15th and so it had been a long, long, long time — had been over nine months, nine and a half months," said Tom Ponting, the club's head coach.
"So to be able to have a nice wide lane, a nice deep pool with clear water ... to be nicely lit and to have the blocks, it was a homecoming. It was like coming to a brand new pool."
The pool originally closed in March following public health restrictions. Then, upgrades to the dehumidification system were approved as the pool was not yet open to the public, and the work required a closed facility.
Then, in the fall, a tricky leak in the competitive pool kept it closed even longer as staff worked to repair it.
This meant the swimmers had to wait to get back to the sport they loved.
"Over COVID — without swimming — I found I never felt as good. I was always bored and looking for things to do,"said Bluephins swimmer Hunter Pierce.
"I felt weaker and I didn't eat as much. I just felt terrible to be honest with you. So good to be back in a routine — helps a lot with just everything."
The swimming community was very supportive, Ponting said, as other facilities opened their doors to the club.
They were able to use the swimming facility at Simmons in Charlottetown and the pool at the T.C.A.P. Family Aquatics in Montague.
Now the club is pushing the swimmers to improve on their personal times with very few meets on the horizon.
"Yeah, that's really great, like I can get back to the pace to be a swimmer and be competitive again," said Bluephins swimmer Hercules Cheng. "I hope I get a new personal time in the coming months or weeks."
Ponting said they are following all the public health guidance and the protocols at the aquatic centre to keep everyone safe.
Registration is still down a little from last year, but with the pool open once again, he said he expects that number to rise.
The Bluephins are working on their form, Ponting said, and looking to the future in their swimming careers.
"Get them ready for the next Canada Games. Get them ready for the next Olympic trials. Get them ready for any competition that comes on hopefully this year," Ponting said.
"Have them thinking about, 'Where's the world at?' 'Where is Canada at?' and not just in this little pond that we are so excited about being back in."