Filipino swimmers laud bubble setup in Clark, New Clark City sports facilities

Filipino swimmers commended the successful bubble hosting of Philippine Swimming Inc. (PSI) Swimming National Selection (SNS) Meet in New Clark City and Clark Freeport Zone, thanking organizers for giving them an opportunity to safely go back in competition after more than a year of the pandemic.

The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), in partnership with the Clark Development Corp. (CDC) and PSI, hosted a total of 71 swimmers at the SNS Meet last October 22 to 24 at the New Clark City Aquatics Center in Capas, Tarlac. Bubble participants were billeted at the Hotel Stotsenberg in Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga.

This was the first competition held at the New Clark City Aquatics Center since the 30th Southeast Asian Games in 2019, a few months before the COVID-19 virus ravaged the country. It was also the first local swimming competition hosted by the PSI since the 2019 Philippine National Open, also at the same facility.

Many participating swimmers expressed their exhilaration for being able to participate in a local competition despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To hold a competition during a global pandemic is extremely difficult so I feel very grateful for the opportunity to be able to compete during this time,” Chloe Daos said. 

Ianiko Limfilipino, for his part, said the meet was able to remind him again “what it feels like to compete.”

“I surely missed the rush of the competition. I’m also happy to see so many familiar faces from coaches, swimmers and officials,” he said.

Thanya dela Cruz, who shattered the national record for the women’s 50m breaststroke at the Aquatics Center, said that, “Having this competition through a bubble is the best setup as we have assurance of isolating ourselves to avoid being infected.” As for setting a new record, she said: “[I’m] still out of words. Coming here, I didn’t really expect anything. I feel like I still need to process it for myself, to really feel like I own it.”

World-class facilities

PSI bubble participants also praised the New Clark City Aquatics Center for its world-class pools and facilities that have been kept in tip-top condition even with the slowdown in sports activities.

“This is by far the best aquatic facilities we have here in the Philippines. In my opinion, the New Clark City Aquatics Center is at world-class standards, and it’s always a wonderful experience to compete there,” Xiandi Chua said. The All-Star Swim Club standout swept all of her three events during the PSI meet.

“It (the Aquatics Center) looks amazing and clean even if no one was able to use it for more than a year,” Miguel Barreto added.

New normal in swimming

Despite changes in sporting events because of the bubble format, participants of the SNS recognized the need for strict health and safety arrangements as part of the new normal.

Joy Rodgers, who previously held the women’s 50m breaststroke record, lauded the organizers of the PSI meet for ensuring the safety of all athletes, coaches and technical staff.

“I really appreciate the efforts of the officiating bodies in implementing the safety protocols to the best of their abilities for this meet to be as safe as possible for everyone, from the weeks leading up to the event up to now,” Rodgers said during the bubble.

She added, “It’s definitely a new and different experience which we all would need getting used to, and of course there will always be room for improvement. Seeing how neat the event is being held, now that I’m here experiencing all of this, I’m getting hopeful and am very much looking forward to the following events to come.”

Rodgers expressed hope that this event would encourage athletes and coaches to focus more on their training, leading to better swimming performances in 2022.

Local swimmers joined the PSI event in a bid to qualify for the 15th Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) World Swimming Championships 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates this December, and the 19th FINA World Championships 2022 to be held in Fukuoka, Japan in May next year.

In a Facebook post, PSI President Lani Velasco thanked the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) for supporting the swimming bubble and giving grassroots swimmers an opportunity to go back in the pool. She also commended the PSI volunteers who worked hard in preparing for the event.

“I am also grateful to our partners and sponsors—BCDA, IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) and CDC for all the help and trust they have given us. Special thanks to everyone in BCDA who supported us from the beginning to end,” Velasco said.

Velasco added, “I know how disappointing and sad it must be for those who are unable to take part in this event. But you have my word that this will not be the last of PSI events. Even with the uncertain future ahead of us, I will make sure that there will be more opportunities for all our swimmers to shine in future events.”

Atty. Aristotle B. Batuhan, Officer-in-Charge of the BCDA, congratulated the PSI for the successful swimming meet, and the athletes for performing to the best of their abilities despite challenges in training and competition amid the pandemic.

“The resiliency of our Filipino athletes was on display at the PSI Swimming National Selection bubble. I am confident that we will be able to forge our path to recovery, and give way to the resurgence of the Filipino sporting scene. Rest assured, the BCDA will continue supporting the sports sector to pave the way for more events like this,” Batuhan said.

BCDA, in partnership with CDC, already has a growing track record of hosting sports bubbles with the completion of Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup last year, the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in June, and the PhilCycling National Trials for Road, all in Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga. Both agencies also managed the pre-Olympic training camp of the Israel national swimming team last August at the New Clark City Aquatics Center.