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Pakistan coach Abdul Aziz Chaudhry (white t-shirt) and Indian counterpart Girish Basavalingappa fixing the lane marker together.

Council News

Different strokes come together as OCA Swimming Youth Camp ends

Date : 14 Nov 2019

Doha, Qatar, November 14, 2019: What began nine days ago as athletes and coaches from 33 different National Olympic Committee participating in a swimming youth camp ended on Thursday, November 14, in a joyous revelry of camaraderie and companionship.

The curtain came down on the OCA/Olympic Solidarity Swimming Youth Camp in Doha with friendships forged for life, and with 66 swimmers and 32 coaches returning home learning more than how to ‘Swim Big’ – having coalesced into a tight-knit family.

“Everybody knows each other now. No one knew anybody when they arrived in Doha. Today they go back having hopefully become better swimmers, but more importantly better persons as individuals. I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for the wonderful memories created over the last few days,” was the heartfelt adieu from course instructor Pierre Lafontaine.

There was perhaps a hint of a tear, especially from the girls, or was it that the chlorine in the pool had made their eyes red?

But there was no hiding the togetherness displayed spontaneously at the Al Sadd Club in Qatar, the venue for the last day of activities which centred around ‘competitive’ races as Lafontaine recorded times for the swimmers in butterfly, backstroke, freestyle and individual medley.

Coaches were not only looking after the welfare of their own children. The Thai coach was encouraging the Omani athlete to swim faster; Iran was inspiring Indonesia, and Mongolia was motivating Macau.

Then there was Indian coach Girish Basavalingappa and his Pakistan counterpart Abdul Aziz Chaudhry together trying to fix an astray lane rope, having pushed aside Lafontaine whose sharp eyes miss nothing.

“It’s so great to see people from different countries coming together like this. This is what sport teaches us. If only life could take an example from this,” smiled Lafontaine as he watched the sub-continent coaching duo fix the lane marker.

Outside the pool, the two swimmers with the largest arm-lengths were comparing their wingspans. South Korean Wu Huang-soon, a dynamo of a swimmer, had the longest arm-span at 194 centimetres. India’s Shoan Ganguly was 190cms. They were measuring their God-given traits.

“My arm-span is longer than my height. I never knew it was so much,” says the Indian as he tries to stretch further than the Korean.

Lafontaine says: “They will all go back home and be better ambassadors for their countries. Nine days ago, they were all shy and reserved. Now they are mixing with each other, and very comfortable in the presence of outsiders. I think they have grown as individuals.”

Swim Big was the mantra from Lafontaine when the Olympic Council of Asia youth camp – the second held this year following skateboarding – began. This has been achieved – and more.

“We are all very grateful for this opportunity given by the OCA and the Qatar Swimming Association. It has been a beautiful experience for the children as well as the coaches. Just amazing,” said Indian coach Girish.

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