After the disruption in sports activities due to the spread of the Delta variant, New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac is reopening its doors to Filipino athletes with the hosting of the 2021 Philippine Swimming Inc. (PSI) National Selection Bubble from October 22 to 24.
A total of 71 local swimmers will face the national tryouts at the world-class Aquatics Center in a bid to qualify for the 15th Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) World Swimming Championships 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates this December, and the 19th FINA World Championships 2022 to be held in Fukuoka, Japan in May next year.
The PSI event was originally scheduled for August 28 to 30, with approval from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, but was postponed due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, which warranted the reimposition of stricter mobility restrictions.
Atty. Aristotle B. Batuhan, Officer-in-Charge of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), said the event not only showcases the world-class facilities in Clark, but also signals the country’s resilience amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As a home for Filipino athletes, New Clark City is proud to host this swimming event and help the country’s hopefuls go for gold in international competitions. Through the PSI bubble, our countrymen can see that the country is on the path towards healing, with our athletes serving as icons of determination and strength despite the odds,” Batuhan said.
PSI President Lani Velasco echoed the sentiment, adding that the event seeks to inspire athletes to continue their efforts despite the pandemic.
“We hope that the event can show to the youth that we can rise again and recover from this pandemic. We hope to encourage current swimmers to train even more to reach their dreams. We also hope to encourage more individuals to take on the sport. After more than a year of not holding events, the 2021 PSI Swimming National Selection Bubble is only the beginning of more events to come,” she said.
The 2021 PSI Swimming National Selection Meet is hosted by BCDA, its subsidiary Clark Development Corp. (CDC), and PSI, the country’s governing body for aquatic sports. The competition will be held at the New Clark City Aquatics Center, the only FINA-approved swimming facility in the country. Athletes, coaches and staff will be billeted at the Hotel Stotsenberg in the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.
“Aside from being a world-class facility, the New Clark City Aquatics Center is our venue of choice simply because of how BCDA manages it, especially given the current health crisis. While it is important for PSI to be able to host a national selection event for our grassroots swimmers, we also equally value the health and safety of our participants. We believe that BCDA has the experience and expertise to deal with both our technical needs and all other needs brought about by the pandemic,” Velasco said.
BCDA, in partnership with CDC, already has a growing track record of hosting sports bubbles with the completion of Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup last year, the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in June, and the PhilCycling National Trials for Road, all in Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga. Both agencies also managed the pre-Olympic training camp of the Israel national swimming team last August at the New Clark City Aquatics Center.
Batuhan assured that strict health and safety protocols will be implemented during the upcoming swimming tryouts.
For one, movement of bubble participants will be limited to the hotel and the training venue.
Vaccinated bubble participants are required to take an RT-PCR test, followed by home isolation. They will take more tests (RT-PCR and antigen) before isolating at Hotel Stotsenberg until the result is known. Unvaccinated participants took an additional RT-PCR test last October 13.
In case a participant tests positive inside the bubble, Hotel Stotsenberg has rooms allocated for isolation. Partner hospitals, namely The Medical City Clark and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Medical Center Clark, will also be on standby to provide medical care.