Over 400 swimmers from South Australia and regional Victoria and New South Wales have dived into the new Port Pirie sport precinct, taking part in the 2019 South Australian Country Swimming Championships.
The city nominated to host the event and with great pride has taken on over 1,000 visitors who will be injecting into the economy from Thursday January 10 until Sunday January 13.
The championships are the first official event being held at the new leisure centre and officials and swimmers are very impressed with the quality of the complex.
Anne-Marie Hammond is the country convenor for country clubs and director for Swimming SA and says they worked very hard with the Port Pirie Regional Council to ensure it was ready for competition and what they see is impressive.
“The facility here is absolutely fantastic. The kids are loving it, the parents are loving it. It is just absolutely gorgeous and the indoor pool that we can also swim in is great for the kids”, Anne-Marie said.
A swimmer from the Port Pirie polar bears Nakeisha Nickels explains that although their off season and season start was affected by the revamp, they are thrilled to finally be able to be back in their pool.
“At the beginning a lot of us were skeptical because it was taking forever. In the end the complex looks great and I think we are going to get a lot more recognition and get a few more swimmers and coaches in now that we have a better complex with more resources”, Nakeisha said.
The country championships are well-known throughout the state and organisers say that without this opportunity for country kids, some remarkable swimmers who have now reached the Olympics would not have been recognised.
“It is vital for country areas. Regional areas need that injection of people. It is just such a great injection into the economy for those local areas”, Anne-Marie explained.
“It is a stepping stone- but a lot of famous swimmers have come from country championships, Kyle Chalmers from Port Lincoln, Ryan Mitchell- the list is endless. We just love to see them come through and we would love to see more.”
Local swimmers Nakeisha Nickels and Claire Coffey were delighted that 31 other clubs had made the trek to Pirie, an event which puts them on the map as a club and they hope it will draw more swimmers and coaches.
“It is kind of exciting”, Nakeisha said, “because people are coming to our pool. We train hard, we are ready to show them what we are made of.”
Claire added that the championships is a good way to advertise the town and she hopes that people will now visit and see what is on offer.
Over the weekend there will be about 2,500 swims among the competitors and for some of them, this competition is vital, as Anne-Marie explains the state competition is just a week away.
“Many are probably working towards getting to states in a weeks time. Others are just here swimming for the sake of swimming just because they love it. Their goal is to get a personal best on their previous times but other than that it just has a beautiful atmosphere with all the other country clubs coming together.”
The swimmers from Pirie are working on the personal bests and trying to decrease their times, as their off-season was limiting without pool access.
“I think the majority of us aren’t completely prepared for states yet”, Nakeisha said.
“Just because last year we didn’t have a proper pool to train in and we were a month late into the season. I think we will be making PBs and getting to our old times, and smashing them.”
Next year, the championships are being held in Murray Bridge.
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