Mount Gambier swimmers are set to make a splash this weekend as the 2023 SA Country Swimming Championships get under way at the Wulanda Recreation and Convention Centre.
More than 430 swimmers from across country South Australia and Victoria will today dive in for the first official event held at the brand-new complex.
Mount Gambier Swimming Club president Nathan Stratford is looking forward to hosting the event, the first time the Blue Lake City has held it since 2015.
The championships will feature the best regional swimmers, with competitors aged between six and 59.
Seventy-two local athletes from the Mount Gambier Swimming Club, Blue Lake Y Swimming Club, Penola, Keith and Bordertown will compete in races across the weekend.
Stratford said the club was proud to host the event for the first time in eight years.
“We were due to host in 2020 but obviously the centre was not open at that stage … we had a lot of support from Swimming SA to make sure that once the centre was open we could be the first to host it,” he said.
“We have got 435 swimmers booked in from Thursday to Sunday night, we are also doing a couple of come and trys with multi class, for those with disabilities, those who want to be part of the inclusion program
“There are 72 locals from the South East and about 40 of those will be competing in the main championship events.
“We will have heats in the morning from 8.30am to 12.30pm and then finals at night starting at 4.30pm and running til about 7.30pm.”
Stratford said the construction of Wulanda was a huge bonus for local swimmers, who were now able to train at the best SA facility outside of Adelaide.
“Having this facility for us puts us ahead of the rest of the state in regards to regional facilities,” he said.
“It also means we can host a lot more of these country and state titles type events.
“The infrastructure that is in place and still being put in place with touch pads and timing systems will put us second behind Adelaide at the SA Aquatic Leisure Centre.
“It’s a massive advantage for us.
“It will also allow us to host competitions indoors during winter where before we have not been able to do that.
“This is the best swimming facility outside of Adelaide, for a lot of our swimmers they have never swum outdoors, to come into this brand-new centre they are very excited about it.
“They are very keen to get on the diving blocks, a lot of them have done three years of swimming and not been able to do any diving training just because of the depths of the other pools we have used.
“For them what we should see the is the ability for them to massively increase in their abilities and their ability to compete at the state and hopefully get some national swimmers out of this.”
Olympic swimmer Maddie Wilson has been named as the ambassador for this year’s championships, and will officially open it today at 3.30pm.
The opening will also feature a food village, as well as Ben Hood providing musical entertainment.
“It is really important for us as we are going to close the centre down for four days so we wanted to find ways to connect with the community,” Stratford said.
“We will have a general public viewing area alongside the pool for the tournament that will allow people to watch, see the races, but also have some local tastes of our region.”
Stratford said the event’s committee had been overwhelmed with the support and generosity shown by local businesses and was pleased to welcome an enormous list of sponsors.
Many of those sponsors will be featured in the food village at the complex, while The Blok Coonawarra bar will also be open at the championships daily from 4pm – 8pm.