Jeremy Laming and Tom Kean, co-founders of The Henley Classic, an open water swimming event held in mid-summer using the same dead-straight course that rowers race at the Famous Royal regatta, have publicly questioned the veracity of the latest Sport England statistics on declining swimming numbers. The Henley Swim team note that this follows record figures in the afterglow of the London 2012 Olympics.
Henley Swim’s co-founders recognise it’s possibly difficult to prove their contention, as open water swimming statistics are neither readily available nor reliably gathered. But they suggest that swimming has possibly never been in better shape. They note that there is ‘a massive wave of momentum building up in the open water swimming world, which gets no mention in Sport England’s latest proclamations on participant numbers.’
They gone to point out that Sport Englands ‘focus would appear to be on pool swimming alone, which ignores the hordes of swimmers taking to our lakes, rivers and seas. Without this recognition, the numbers are by definition going to be inaccurate and not reflect the enthusiasm of the country’s participants.’
Henley Swim’s Jeremy Laming said, “I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to start including open water swimmers in these numbers. It’s now becoming very normal to see 200 to 300 swimmers take to organised lake venues and enjoy the freedom of swimming outdoors in a safe and exciting new way.
“Modern wetsuits and proper venue infrastructure are feeding the huge rise in numbers we are witnessing up and down the whole of the UK. You only need to look at social media to see the kinds of numbers involved. And our own events back this up with numbers up steadily each year.”
He went on to suggest that if it takes its eye off the ball by ignoring open water swimmers, Sport England risks missing an amazing opportunity to not only halt what may be seen as a losing battle, but to actually develop a vigorous new sport.
Laming added, “It’s relatively easy to gather event entry data to be included in this debate, but it would appear that lake and river swimmers are being missed-off completely.
He added, “New ventures are springing up all over the place with technology-driven initiatives similar to Park Run being rolled-out, especially at the better-organised venues. So to suggest there is a problem instinctively feels wrong.”