Barely twenty members of the Club de Hielo swimming club remain. / ÑITO SALAS

Young swimmers forced to train in the sea following Benalmádena pool closure

The sudden closure of the Club de Hielo in Arroyo de la Miel has also meant that the local swimming club can no longer compete

Ivan Gelibter

Bathers are starting to brave the Costa del Sol waters as summer approaches, but one group of youngsters from Benalmádena have been swimming in the sea for months.

Since the sudden closure of the Club de Hielo ice rink and pool complex in Arroyo de la Miel last December, the sea has been the only option for members of the local swimming club left with nowhere else to train.

In the winter the children had to endure icy temperatures. "They're young and they got used to it, but in the first few days you could hear them screaming with cold," said Eva, mother of Guillermo, one of the youngsters who have been stoically enduring this situation without the town hall - at least so far - making a move.

The day they were informed that the Club de Hielo would close its doors, the number of swimmers in the club was as high as 70. Now there are only 15 left.

"When we saw that the pool wasn't going to open, the swimming coach suggested we go to the beach to swim, and we've been doing that ever since. There are no alternatives," said Eva.

Beyond the obvious inconveniences of swimming in open water, the lack of solutions from the council has also meant that they've had to stop competing; open-water swimming would only make sense if they were preparing for a triathlon.

"They are swimming to keep fit, but they can't train for anything. They end up having a great time, but as competition training it doesn't work. They want to go back to a pool; they want to compete," said the parents.

No solution in sight

The Club de Hielo, which comprises ice rink, pool and gym, closed unexpectedly on 5 December. At that time, according to the council, it was a consequence of the decrease in user numbers due to the pandemic and the restrictions on opening hours (then the centre had to close at 6pm).

In a bid "to protect jobs", it said, it would not withdraw the concession, which was due to expire at the end of the year, as it would mean that the workers wouldn't be eligible for furlough (ERTE) protection. Local residents, meanwhile, have been left without sports facilities.