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Kings of Anglia Issue 10 Magazine Offer

Suffolk leads in search for swim stars

PUBLISHED: 18:08 27 February 2002 | UPDATED: 11:26 03 March 2010

SWIMMING: Suffolk is now officially leading the way in its attempt to capture some of the world's finest swimming talent. The Evening Star has learned exclusively how the county is about to embark on a radical new programme which will tempt youngsters toward the potential rewards of a competitive club career.

SUFFOLK is now officially leading the way in its attempt to capture some of the world's finest swimming talent.

The Evening Star has learned exclusively how the county is about to embark on a radical new programme which will tempt youngsters toward the potential rewards of a competitive club career.

Through this initiative, an unprece-dented sum of £100,000 is already being lined up to fund promising youth talent over a five-year period.

The programme, which is a collective initiative brought about by Sport England and encouraged by the Amateur Swimming Association, is to inspire a host of pool-based events which have never before been witnessed by young and aspiring swimmers.

These will include dedicated Swimming Festivals, regional Swimming Camps and the formation of Development Squads who can then be helped to progress through the competitive arena.

"It's a really positive advance for the whole UK swimming structure,"

commented ASA regional development officer, Richard Gordon. "And more importantly, it's really encouraging for Suffolk in particular.

"As a county we are already very proactive in terms of having so many swimming facilities and coaches.

"Gaining this funding, and working as part of this scheme, means that we can take our enthusiastic approach that extra step further."

Suffolk was in fact the first county (known in the scheme as a 'partnership') to apply for such swimming-oriented funding through the Sport England's new Active Sports Programme.

Created with ten core sports in mind, Active Sports is a co-ordinated England-wide approach to helping children get more out of sport.

As well as swimming, it also includes tennis, women's football, rugby union, hockey, netball, cricket, athletics, basketball, and rugby league.

The concept allows local 'partnerships' to decide which sports they wish to offer locally, and then set up their own Action Groups for each one.

Swimming Action Groups were initially devised in the region, and plans made for potential improvements. Following those plans, a submission was made to the Sport England Lottery Fund.

"With the help of Suffolk ASA, all our local authorities, and the Midland District ASA, we were able to raise an initial £4,000 funding," said Richard. "From that, we were granted a calculated amount, and so, with our input every year, we should be entitled to around £100,000 over five years."

He said: "The scheme is hugely important to us, because it means that there will be the money available to give children the right education, and to continually re-train our coaching staff as well.

"It is essential that parents feel their children are attending a safe environment, and in this way, we can help to make sure that our clubs will provide exactly that."

The Active Sport scheme forms several levels in respect of Suffolk swimming, but initially, the hope is that the programme will get more eight to ten-year-olds to appreciate the pool and the potential for club involvement.

Specifically, the initiative is targeting non-club swimmers – those who may have enjoyed school or local authority swimming.

Richard said: "This age is a really important one to begin opening swimmer's eyes to the possibilities.

"We want to do this in a fun way by offering festivals and camps – all tightly organised and with parents being encouraged to attend.

"It's not just about encouraging the competitive instinct, because more than anything, we want youngsters to swim, and I'm sure that most adults know the importance of their child being able to do that.

"Besides, there are literally dozens of other sports for which swimming can be essential."

He added: "At the other end of the spectrum, we might well find some real champions among those youngsters who come along.

"This might be exactly what they needed to lead them toward international success."

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