Top Swimmers Defend Pools and Priority Centres

Posted on 16. Jan, 2012 by in media, Media releases, News Story, Uncategorized, Updates

Top Canadian swimmers ask City Council to protect swimming pools and Priority Centres which offer free programs – including swimming – to 12,870 children and youth city-wide.

 (January 16th – Toronto) – The day before Toronto City Council votes on the 2012 budget, some of Canada’s top competitive swimmers are expressing their concern over cuts to city pools and access to recreation.

“The PAN AM Games are coming to Toronto in 2015. It would be great to compete in a city where sports are supported at the grassroots level and kids have free access to local pools,” says Zack Chetrat, a member of the National Training Centre who has been training full-time to compete in the Pan Am Games, and will also be competing in March to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games.

 “As a competitive swimmer I have realized, through experience, that the ability to swim is a basic skill that should be taught to all children,” says Hassaan Abdel Khalik, who is training for the 2012 Canadian Olympic Trials. “Children cannot be taught the fundamentals of water safety without available pools. Ultimately, water safety saves lives.”

 The proposed budget contains cuts to the City’s 21 Priority Centres, which offer free programs to 12,870 children and youth. The city’s recreation subsidy program, the Welcome Policy, was frozen and unavailable for most of 2011. Given the budget allocation for 2012, it is likely to be frozen for most of next year as well.

 Byron MacDonald, the highly decorated Head Swimming Coach of 34 seasons at the University of Toronto also spoke out strongly against the proposed cuts, saying that, in a city surrounded by water, learning to swim is as much about safety as it is about exercise, recreation and competition.

 “Learning to swim is an essential activity that should be available to all residents regardless of income. Many families rely on Priority Centres for no-fee access to swimming pools and swimming lessons,” says MacDonald. “According to Swim Canada more than 20 percent of all kids in Canada are at risk for obesity-related illnesses, and nearly 500 kids drown every year in Canada. Swimming is not a frill, we need to remember that where we live swimming is as much a survival skill as it is a healthy activity.”

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