A PAIR of swimming coaches based in Ellesmere are fearing the long-term impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on the sport.

Alan Bircher, director of swimming at Ellesmere College Titans, and Steffi Bircher, director of Ellesmere Titans Learn to Swim, have been awaiting an announcement from the UK Government regarding the reopening of swimming pools, however no announcement has been made yet.

The pair have been working hard to put in place the correct measures to ensure social distancing is maintained and safety is at the forefront of their operations once they are able to return to the pool.

Mr Bircher believes the guidelines in place for swimmers would make it safer to train in the pool than to attend a pub.

He said: “It’s fascinating that social distancing has been reduced to one metre, and we have entry routes, exit routes and specific bays for individuals swimming to ensure they are two metres apart, as well as disinfectant and chlorinated water.

“It’s staggering that you can’t have potential Olympians returning to the sport – it isn’t just us as a programme, it’s similar ones across the country.

“We’d put everything in order, including videos of how parents would enter the college to drop off and then leave the college and then pick their child up again.

“We have guidance in place that I am certain is safer than going to a pub, and yet we’re still the last ones standing alongside gyms.”

With swimming pools still closed despite many other sports beginning a phased return to normality, Mr Bircher believes the longer the lockdown continues for swimming, the more damage it will inflict on the sport.

He added: “I was relatively vocal about the impact on the sport at the start of lockdown – I think we’ll lose around 20 per cent of swimmers.

“We’re very fortunate in this country to have had Rebecca Adlington and Adam Peaty, but I fear we may now have a lost generation to a degree.

“I think there will be really talented swimmers who decide during this lockdown that they don’t really want to return to the sport.

“We won’t see the effect right now, but when it comes to the Los Angeles and Paris Olympic Games, that’s when you’ll notice it.

“That’s the concerning point for me, and I feel as though local swimming clubs are going to be hit quite hard by this.

“I think there will be a lot of leisure centres that will have shut down on March 23 and will never reopen, and that’s the biggest gut-wrencher, because there will be pockets across the country that don’t have access to swimming pools.”