The Netherlands have been one of the first European countries to ease lockdown restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. It allowed the Dutch Para swimming team to get back in the water following a series of rules established by national public health authorities.
World Para Swimming caught up with Paralympic and world champion Lisa Kruger to know more about the strict protocol the team has to follow and how it feels to be back in the swimming pool.
“Getting back in the pool is really exciting and it also kind of tough. We have been working really hard to get our technique and our stamina back,” Kruger said.
The team is practicing in Amersfoort, 50km away from Dutch capital Amsterdam. Athletes have been split in three different groups in order to limit the amount of people circulating around the facilities.
“We have early morning, late morning and afternoon groups. This is necessary because the swimming pool only has ten lanes and we have more than ten athletes in our team. The training times have also been reduced from two hours to one and a half as the swimming pool is not open the whole day,” Kruger explained.
There are also specific rules for the groups, as swimmers are not allowed to share the same lane in the pool.
“Athletes on lanes with even numbers start on one side of the pool, athletes on odd numbers start from the other side of the pool. We do not use toilets, we do not use dressing rooms and we have to wash our hands as many times as possible,” added the swimmer.
The Dutch Para swimming team’s training routine also includes gym sessions in a new area to allow more social distancing.
“We have moved all the gym equipment to a big sports hall where only six people are allowed at the time and we have to clean the equipment after we use it,” said the Rio 2016 100m breaststroke SB9 and London 2019 100m backstroke S10 winner.
No matter what rules the team needs to follow, Kruger knows it has only been two weeks since she has been allowed to swim again. The reality in most countries during the COVID-19 pandemic is still very different.
“Being back in the pool like this is a bit weird, but we are really happy to be back. We realised we are incredibly lucky to be one of the first countries to be allowed back to swimming and I hope the rest of the world follows soon.”