So yesterday I got in contact with Dr. Ivan Tsanov, Secretary General of the Association of the Bulgarian swimmers and Editor-in-Chief of the number one Bulgarian website about swimming, www.bgswim.info with about 15000 daily visits. He asked me about Faroese swimming, and has now been so kind to translate my somewhat hurried response and put it here on bgswim.info. It is mostly about how tiny we are; you could have it autotranslated by Google, but for comfort I’ll put my summary of Faroese swimming here in English after the break. I’ve probably stepped on a few toes back home with this text, but there you go.
Faroe Islands has a population of about 49,000 people, and is a self-governed region under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark. We have our own language, more similar to Icelandic and Norwegian than Danish, and run our own country with the exception of military defense, police, justice, currency and foreign affairs. See for instance en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faroe_Islands for more details.
About the swim sport, we are an independent member of FINA, but not a member of the International Olympic Committee. This means that for instance our top swimmer Pál Joensen (European silver medalist in Budapest 2010, #4 at the world championships in Shanghai 2011) can represent the Faroe Islands at all FINA events, but not the Olympics. Luckily people have worked hard to have FINA and IOC accept an arrangement, where Pál can represent Denmark at the Olympics and then switch back to Faroe Islands without any quarantine.
The Faroese Swimming Federation is tiny, as you can imagine. We have a General Secretary working part-time, and pay coaches for time spent with the national teams, and then nothing else. Because of Pál’s unique status, we get an additional amount of money from the Faroese Government, through the Faroese Sports Federation, earmarked directly for Pál Joensen, so that we can pay for his training and competition trips and tests, to have a physiotherapist following him, etc. Nothing much, no salary for him for instance, but enough to pay for the expenses.
Swimming is not the biggest sport in the Faroe Islands, and certainly not the biggest when it comes to local media exposure. Football has the most members, recreational gymnastics also a lot, and then we’re somewhere around number three, I guess membership mostly restricted by limitations in swimming pools and qualified coaches. Our national radio and TV is by habit mostly interested in 1) football, 2) rowing in traditional boats (our national sport), 3) handball and 4) volleyball. They have of course been forced to have interest in swimming because of Pál, but reluctantly, without any real interest, and with a lot of balls dropped.
We have no 50 meter pool, only three 25 meter pools (two of them public), and then quite a lot of 16 meter pools, so that almost all schools have access to water for teach-to-swim programs. We have 6 active swimming clubs, the major 3 of them the ones with access to a 25 meter pool. The total amount of swimmers of national team quality is about 30, the large majority of these juniors.
Our international ambitions are naturally (with exception of Pál) limited to things like the Nordic Youth Championships and Nordic Junior Championships, and some selected international events (for instance Bergen Swim Festival in Norway). We have also traditionally participated in the bi-annual ‘Island Games’ (see www.islandgames.net/), where we these last three events have been one of the top players in swimming. Of course, we would like to grow into having more real international swimmers than Pál, but it is difficult with such a small number of swimmers.