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Happy to be back . . . Oamaru swimmers James Soal (11), Olivia McLean (10) and Hannah Burke (11) happy to be back in the water. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

It has been a long time between swims for members of the Oamaru Swim Club, who are now back in the water after an enforced break in training.

First came the Covid-19 lockdown, which was followed by the closure of the Waitaki Aquatic Centre for several weeks for upgrades and maintenance work.

Oamaru Swim Club head coach Narcis Gherca said not being able to coach under lockdown was “horrible”.

“I have been coaching nearly every morning and every afternoon for 35 years; suddenly stopping for who knew how long was really hard,” Gherca said.

“I was like a lion in a cage.”

The meet calendar for the coming season was looking quite different from previous years.

Due to the restrictions in place, there would be fewer opportunities for swimmers to qualify for national meets next year.

But club members are just happy to be back in the water.

Eleven-year-old James Soal said he missed swimming so much, he ended up training in the Oamaru Harbour as soon as Level 3 restrictions came into play, “which was very cold”.

Olivia McLean (10) said she had started running under lockdown to try to keep fit, but she would “rather swim 1000m than run 100”.

Hannah Burke (11) said it was “amazing” to be back in the water, particularly because she had missed all her swimming friends.

Oamaru Swim Club president Sonya Macdonald said it was great to see all the swimmers back in the water and enjoying the sport they love.

“I know they will work hard over the coming weeks to get their fitness back and get on track to achieve the goals they have set.

“Even though swimming is an individual sport, we are a swimming family and it’s great to be back together.

The lockdown came just after a group of junior swimmers competed at the Makos (South Island) New Zealand Junior Festival in March.

The club competed well, with several swimmers gaining medals.

James Soal was the overall top boys’ point-scorer across all age groups and the Oamaru Swim Club won top overall points.

The National Age Group Championships, the premier meet for swimmers aged 13 to 18, had to be cancelled as they were due to take place in April.