SWIM COACH ASKS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY OVER SAGA OF BREAKDOWNS

Kevin Anderson, head swim coach at the Ulster National Centre, said that athletes could not afford to wait until next year for the pool’s problems to be resolved.

He said the development of the £38million centre included a £15 million investment from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL), which was administered by Sport Northern Ireland.

Hitting out at the delay to repair the pools, the coach said: “My understanding is the floors are to be fixed in 2025 but this doesn’t provide an excuse that they can’t provide sport with what they require.”

He asked: “Is it inspected on a monthly basis, does the council have a prevention process in place? The cold water emerson tank has never worked, the dive tank doesn’t go up or down, the scoreboard isn’t working and the water fountain took two and a half months to fix. It is a saga of breakdowns.

“Who is accountable? There should be inspections to try and trying to do preventative maintenance. I think there is a disconnect between SERCO and the council. It doesn’t look like there is a lot of prevention, it is reaction and that is the sad part.”

The head coach called for changes to the configuration of two of the Aurora pools to be set at 50m to give the athletes the best chance to train.

Said Mr Anderson: “Now, not only can we not train in a 50 metre long course pool but we can’t use starting blocks to dive off. There is no reason why they can’t push everything down and leave it at 50 metres. I think everybody would be happy and everybody would adapt.”

Currently sport swimmers are training width ways across the main pool. “We are now swimming widths and we don’t have proper lines in the pool,” said Mr Anderson. “They are now squeezing everybody into eight lanes and we can only swim short course (25metres) and there are pools not being used.

“It creates tension between the different user groups, they are trying to put everybody in half the space. They need to provide the same level of service that everyone expects.”

Turning to his athlete’s morale in this important training window, Mr Anderson said: “We are trying not to bring anxiety into the group, we want them to show up every day and do a great job. Let’s just do a great job training today. We are trying our best that this does not have have an effect on them emotionally.”

However, the coach has already taken the decision to take his athletes to Torremolinos for two weeks training saying: “We are going to Spain for two weeks in March to ensure that we get long course training, it is going to cost thousands of pounds.   

Local swimmers are no stranger to success in spite of the ‘adversity’ as Mr Anderson said: “We are doing some really good things here but we are doing it through adversity. What could they achieve if they were getting the same opportunities as anywhere else?”

Despite the ongoing difficulties, Mr Anderson was full of praise for the centre staff: “The staff are all friendly and are doing the best job they can. It is a stunning pool facility. If they could just operate it accordingly it would be one of the most attractive places to train, swim and bring your family.”