IPSWICH REJECTED: Popular event called off
ONE of Ipswich's most successful swimmers and coaches has questioned why the city had to cancel a popular program, originally scheduled for this weekend.
Sydney 2000 Olympian and 2002 Commonwealth Games representative Heath Ramsay is among those in the Ipswich swimming fraternity disappointed that Brisbane Swimming officials rejected this year's City of Ipswich Sprint Classic.
Last year's inaugural event at Bundamba pool offered $7500 in prize money, built around a special challenge format backed by Ipswich City Council.
However, regional swimming officials were recently told the racing program was not compliant with a junior and senior structure that higher level decision-makers wanted.
"Queensland Swimming and Brisbane Swimming pretty much weren't going to approve the format of the carnival we ran last year,'' Ramsay said.
"They've got this system that they are trying to push, just on the Brisbane region, of running meets that are junior and senior. So the first half of the meet is 11 and under and the second half is 12 and over.''
That format doesn't match what Ipswich organised for the sprint meet, despite overriding support for it and backing from Ipswich City Council.
"Every club that came, every swimmer, every coach that came really loved the meet last year,'' Ramsay said. "Everyone we speak to are disappointed we are not running it.''
Among those celebrating the success of last year's event was Yeronga Park club swimmer Caitlin Mitchell, who was the fastest female at the meet. "Because it was a local community event, I wanted to support it,'' Mitchell said.
"It was fantastic.''
Brisbane Swimming official Peter Crane defended the decision to reject Ipswich's sprint classic saying the policy was designed to look after kids.
"We put time restrictions on the amount of hours that the juniors and the seniors sessions go,'' said Crane, who is Event Nominations Officer.
"It's to protect the young swimmers from dropping out.
"They (Ipswich officials) wanted to have a long day for all the age groups and we said it had to be strictly two sessions, according to age, and they couldn't seem to come to an agreement.''
Crane said the Brisbane Swimming policy had been "around for a while now''.
Ipswich lost its swimming autonomy after a takeover by Brisbane Swimming in 2006. Brisbane Swimming now covers more than 80 clubs.
As for why Ipswich was allowed to host a similar format last year and not this year, Crane said Brisbane Swimming reviewed the situation.
"Once it becomes apparent to us, we have to act on things,'' Crane said.
Crane said for the City of Ipswich Sprint Classic to be staged in the future, Ipswich officials would have to meet the criteria.
"The targeted time is two hours for a transition meet - two hours for the juniors and two hours for the seniors,'' he said.
"If it goes slightly over, that's okay but if it's going to go way over, it's not acceptable.''
Crane said the five and a half hour program Ipswich officials proposed failed to fit into Brisbane Swimming's time restrictions.
"It's always open if they (Ipswich officials) want to comply with the splitting it into two sessions, according to age,'' he said.
Even though the Ipswich classic was a one-off prize money event, Crane said the meet had to be run under Brisbane Swimming's format.
"It still gets down to the basic principles, for juniors in particular, trying to entertain kids for long periods of time,'' he said.
"Once the parents are frustrated and can't entertain the kids for long periods of time, they don't have their kids in the events and lose them.''
However, Ramsay said Ipswich event organisers were surprised to hit a major hurdle this year, even trying to host a one-off event that was good for the sport.
Despite the scheduling and prize money focus of the Ipswich Sprint Classic, Ramsay was confident the meet would have provided a good spectacle for the younger swimmers.
The Western Aquatics Swimming Club head coach knows what families are looking for, having helped set up a new club in the Ipswich region five years ago.
"Brisbane Swimming are pushing this junior-senior format,'' he said.
"The theory behind it is they are trying to promote swimming like football, netball and rugby league where the little kids might only be there for two hours but unfortunately swimming is never going to be those sports.
"Parents are probably more than likely willing to give up a day of their weekend for a swimming carnival.
"If you are involved with swimming, I think you are okay with a day swim meet and every club is trying to create a bit of a culture and an environment in their club where the little kids support the big kids and vice versa.
"Running this junior-senior format just doesn't lend itself to that - the little kids don't get to see the big guys.
"It detracts from what you are trying to establish in your squads.''