Fiji’s open swimming nationals later this year will now act as an Olympic qualifying event.

President of the Fiji Swimming Association, Ben Rova, said the decision was made in the best interests of the athletes vying for a spot at the 2021 Olympic Games.

“We were very pleased with that because we know that there’s lockdowns there in Australia and New Zealand, but what we’re trying to do is we are mindful of the eight swimmers that we have that are vying for the qualifications,” he said.

“So to try to help them because they can’t come out of Fiji, we’re trying to get them to another level of competition that will enable them to meet the required time, so we were very happy that FINA has approved.”

As well as the open nationals in December, Fiji was also due to host the Oceania Swimming Championships at some point next year.

“Right now we are still scheduled to be hosting the deferred Oceania Swimming Championships which is an Olympic qualifying event… we also sent in applications for the Easter Championships for next year, which should also be an Olympic qualifying event.”

Fiji will host their first swimming competition since the onset of Covid-19 next weekend, with the first of three scheduled Grand Prix tournaments kicking off in Suva.

Rova said he was looking forward to seeing some normality back into the local swimming calendar.

“We’re happy to say we’ve got the Grand Prix series back on and we’ve also got an age group nationals competition that’s coming up,” he said.

“Since there’s been some uplifting of restrictions here in Fiji, we’ve decided to continue the calendar of programmes that we have but we’ve done some changes to try and suit the current climate that we’re in right now.”

Some of those changes include holding the Grand Prix events at different venues to ensure health and safety measures are being followed.

“The reason why we split the venues is to comply with the restriction of numbers in a venue… so that we can accommodate the swimmers as well spectators because right now spectators are limited to 50 percent of the capacity,” Rova explained.

He said local clubs were excited to get back into the water after such a long break.

“Right now we have 10 swimming clubs registered [to compete] and they’re spread out between Suva, Nadi and Lautoka.

“So what we’ve done in splitting the events, it allows people the opportunity to compete in their own areas but if for some reason they can’t compete in the week… they are able to move to another scheduled event.”

The upcoming tournaments and Olympic qualifiers are part of Fiji’s long-term preparations for the 2023 Pacific Games in Solomon Islands.

“We’ve got our new four year strategic plan already in place and so a lot of the things we are doing is gearing up for those in 2023.

“We are trying to set up our squads that we’ve already set the platform for, we are now just waiting to implement this. So come the AGM in September, we will be able to put more focus and detail into the plans we have for 2021 and moving forward.”

RNZ

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