Swimming: Australia takes short course 'champs' virtual due to COVID-19

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia’s national short course swimming championships scheduled for next week have been abandoned because of COVID-19 restrictions and replaced with virtual ‘championships’ instead, Swimming Australia said on Wednesday.

The championships had been due to be held in Melbourne from Oct. 22-24, but the city is still in a hard lockdown despite coronavirus infections falling to single and low double digits in recent weeks.

Instead swimmers will compete at venues in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Hobart in four sessions of ‘finals’ from Nov. 27-29.

Each event will be raced as close to simultaneously as possible and the results sent to a centralised platform, from where the swimmers are ranked to determine their final position, although they would not be awarded a national title.

“We don’t feel it is fair to hold an Australian Championships when not all athletes may be able to compete,” Swimming Australia’s Chief Strategist Alex Baumann said in a statement.

“We understand many states are still restricted by border closures which will prevent travel to a single event, but we felt strongly about providing meaningful racing opportunities for our athletes.”

Baumann added an event in South Australia had not been organised as swimmers based there have no restrictions on their travel and could choose to compete in any of the other meetings.

If travel restrictions are imposed an event would be staged in Adelaide, he said.

All of the meetings will be held in accordance with state government and public health guidelines.

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Michael Perry