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Olympic medal-winners to visit for winter camp

United States swimmer King will be among some top names training at the NSC

The National Sports Centre is preparing for a winter training camp of 100 visiting swimmers.

It represents the largest contingent at the pool to utilise the Bermuda Tourism Authority sports tourism partnership which began two years ago.

About 70 swimmers from Indiana University and 30 from Germantown Academy will train simultaneously at the aquatics and fitness centre between December 27 and January 5.

The Indiana team includes Olympic medal-winner Lilly King, who won gold in the 100 metres breaststroke and medley relay, Blake Pieroni, the gold medal-winner in the 400 freestyle relay, and Cody Miller, a gold medal-winner in the medley relay and a bronze medal-winner in the 100 breaststroke at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“We just came off the best Olympics at Indiana in 40 years,” said Mike Westphal, the Indiana University swim coach, during a visit to the facility.

“Our main objective is to just train. Get ourselves better from a training aspect and during the time we’re coming it’s our heavy training load.

“We want to make sure we have a facility that will meet that need — this facility will do it.”

The BTA-NSC agreement allows visiting teams to use NSC training facilities at little or no cost because tourism officials pick up the tab if the team provides an adequate economic impact for the island.

This strategy has helped usher in a wave of teams for swimming, lacrosse, rugby and other sports — particularly during the shoulder season between November and March.

“Our sports training strategy is attracting younger visitors to Bermuda, which is so important to the sustainability of our industry,” said Pat Phillip-Fairn, chief product and experiences development officer at the BTA.

“Most of us can remember college weeks, this sports training approach is the reimagined college weeks and it’s working very well.

“Now the focus is on growth. We want to make sure we grow in a way that makes sense for Bermuda and doesn’t compromise the integrity of the experience.

“So far, so good. The response has been fantastic.”

Sean Tucker, the NSC chairman, said: “Every component of the National Sports Centre that we’ve built, we’ve built to world class standards.

“So the track was built to world class standards, the hockey field was built to world-class standards and the pool is the same.

“We’re looking forward to testing our facility to show that we can accommodate larger numbers.”

The coaching staffs at Indiana and Germantown have worked together in the past and are ready to share the aquatic and fitness spaces.

The Germantown coach referred Bermuda to the coaches in Indiana and that conversation led to them choosing to visit the island at the same time.

Coach Westphal said: “We haven’t gone on a training trip in a couple of years.

“The swimmers are really excited to get someplace warmer and to be outdoors.”

In the first quarter of this year elite swimmers from the Denmark swim team and SwimMac Carolina utilised the BTA-NSC sports tourism partnership to train in Bermuda ahead of the Olympics in Rio.

Earlier this month St Andrew’s College had a team of swimmers use the pool for training ahead of their swim season back home in Canada.

Several Olympic swimmers visited Bermuda in April from the SwimMac Carolina team, including Cullen Jones, a two-times Olympic gold medal-winner, Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, of the Bahamas, who competed at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics, as well Zimbabwean great Kirsty Coventry.

Bermuda’s Roy-Allan Burch is also a member of SwimMac Carolina.