It’s also offered an antidote to Covid – Adam Peaty speaking of his desire to lift the nation’s mood and Tom Dean, the new freestyle sensation, revealing that he had contracted the virus on two occasions.
Now, as Team GB’s more ruthless approach to competition and selection sees the nation become a powerhouse of global swimming, it is hoped that these gold medals can be the springboard for societal change. Not only will these triumphs – Dean held off the late challenge of team-mate Duncan Scott in the thrilling 200 metres freestyle final – encourage others to follow in their wake, but they also demonstrate the value of local pools and swimming’s importance as a life skill.
For, while Peaty and Dean’s heroics coincided with the reopening of many public pools following the pandemic, Swim England’s chief executive Jane Nickerson has warned this newspaper that 20 per cent could remain permanently shut and not enjoy the investment witnessed at Bramley Baths in Leeds or the newly-restored Beverley Road pool in Hull.
And this, coupled with a nationwide shortage of 8,000 swimming instructors, means up to 600,000 primary school pupils a year will be denied the chance to learn to swim – statistics that are genuine cause for alarm given how the ability to be water proficient can, in certain circumstances, be a matter of life and death.
With this month already blighted by countless drowning tragedies, and many more people fortunate to be rescued after getting into difficulty, now is a chance for the Government, Swim England and others to show Olympic-like resolve over water safety. For, if it saves just one life, it will be some legacy from Tokyo.
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