• Lake Macquarie City Council

Swim centre reopenings make a splash with elite Hunter athletes

Elite Hunter athletes are lapping up the opportunity to train in the pool following the reopening of Charlestown and Speers Point Swim Centres.

Paralympics triathlete Lauren Parker returned to the water last week after a two-month swim-training hiatus due to COVID-19.

“I’ve still been able to complete my training for the bike (handcycle) and the run (racing chair), although I haven’t been able to swim for a couple of months with the pools being closed,” Parker said.

“This has set me back quite a lot for swimming. I’m really excited to be getting back into some normality and getting some time in the pool.

”Lake Macquarie City Council Manager Leisure Services Brad Sutton said Lake Mac Swim Centres were striving to meet the community’s needs.

“That includes athletes such as Lauren, to help ensure she maintains peak fitness in the lead-up to the postponed Tokyo Paralympics,” Mr Sutton said.

“We are so proud to host elite athletes like Lauren at our facilities.”

Parker, 31, is a two-time world champion in the women’s para-triathlon seated class and is the top-ranked female competitor in the sport.

Nathan Power, a favourite to make the Australian Olympic water polo squad, is also using Charlestown Swim Centre for intensive training three times a week, after the pandemic prevented him from returning to professional competition in Croatia.

“I’ve been trying to work on my swimming fitness that was lost while we were unable to go to pools,” Power said.

“I’ve also been using the deeper part of the pool for some water polo-specific leg drills.

”Power said it was “incredibly important” to have access to a full-sized pool for serious training.

“Water polo does require some pretty specific training that can’t be replicated outside the pool,” he said.

Meanwhile, Parker said it could take an extended period to get fully swim-fit.

“It will take a few months to increase my swim sessions, but I will get back to swimming 5km each session with the help of Lake Macquarie City Council for giving me easy access to the pools,” she said.

Parker hopes to compete in the road race and time trial events, but faces a gruelling 12 months of extra preparation for the Tokyo Games, which were scheduled for August but will now be held a year later.

“Swimming makes up a huge part of training to achieve my goals, especially to compete at the Paralympics, so it’s really important for me to get back to where I was before COVID-19,” Parker said.

“Swimming fitness is a whole other level of fitness and it’s much harder to get the feel back in the water, especially after extended time off.”

“But I’m happy that I can start improving that area and that definitely gives me some motivation."

Following last week’s NSW Government announcement regarding indoor swimming facilities, Lauren will also have access to West Wallsend Swim Centre to undertake her training.

The indoor facility opened today for squad training only, including a new ‘STOMP’ (Surf, Triathlon, Ocean, Masters and Professional athletes) squad program.

Charlestown Swim Centre reopened last week to the public via a booking-only system, to limit the number of people using the facility at the same time.

Strong demand has prompted Council to temporarily open Speers Point Swim Centre for bookings.

Mr Sutton said solar heating recently installed at the Speers Point site meant it was a suitable second location to open temporarily through winter, to meet current demand due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Speers Point Swim Centre usually closes at the end of April, but we know the community is keen to get back into the pool for fitness, and with the one person per lane limit, we are doing what we can to help."

”To find out more and to book one-hour sessions at Charlestown or Speers Point Swim Centres, call 4921 0782 9am-5pm. Go to lakemac.com.au for more information.

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