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Course Instructor Pierre Lafontaine puts participants at OCA Swimming Youth Camp in Doha through their paces. © OCA

Council News

Swim ‘teacher’ Lafontaine urges OCA Youth Camp to be one big family

Date : 07 Nov 2019

Doha, Qatar, November 7, 2019: Thimphu teenager Sherub Tandon Gyeltshen swells in pride in the pool when Pierre Lafontaine points at his flexed biceps and says “you are strong, swim another 400 metres”.

The words of encouragement from the world-renowned Olympic coach might well be the spark that lights an illustrious career for the 14-year-old Bhutanese swimmer, one of 66 young swimmers from 33 Asian National Olympic Committees taking part in the Olympic Council of Asia/IOC Olympic Solidarity Youth Camp in Doha.

“I don’t like the word ‘coach’. I regard myself as a teacher of skills and this is what I will try and instill in these boys and girls, as well as the coaches who have accompanied them here. It is important that these coaches are also inspired,” says Lafontaine, the former Canadian Olympic swimming team head coach.

The first couple of sessions during the nine-day camp which began on Tuesday, November 6, have all been about breaking the ice and making everyone comfortable with a training regime that includes two three-hour sessions, morning and afternoon in the pool.

“Swimming is all about technique. Swimming is all abut good kicking, strength, and most of all good team spirit,” explains Lafontaine to a rapt audience during his opening training session.

Lafontaine urges the swimmers and coaches from countries ranging from Afghanistan to Yemen and Bangladesh to Vietnam, to come together and mix in a heady winning cocktail.

“I want all of you to talk to each other, that is how the world gets better. For the next few days, this is not about 33 countries, but about one big swimming family,” Lafontaine urges.

Appointed by FINA to run this camp – the second youth camp held this year by the OCA following skateboarding in Nanjing, China – Lafontaine is keen to stress how important a role the coach, or as he says teacher, has to play.

“I don’t have all the answers. I got lucky. I got some good swimmers who went on to win Olympic medals. But the way I learned is by talking to good coaches and learning from them. This is what I want these coaches to do over the next few days,” Lafontaine says.

The sport is very simple according to Lafontaine. “What matters is speed. If you go to the Olympics, they don’t tell you ‘Oh you are from Mongolia so we will give you a two seconds lead. Everyone starts at the same time, so you have to just remember one thing – swim fast.

“Even if the administration in your country is very good, it will not make anybody swim fast. Only a good coach can make you swim fast. The administration is there to support you, but it is the teacher who can take you to the next level,” Lafontaine explained.

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