Swimmers help break world record - Tucson Local Media: Sports

Swimmers help break world record

Event raises awareness about drowning

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Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 3:00 am

They came. They splashed. They conquered.

On June 14, area water enthusiasts turned out en masse at the Oro Valley Municipal Pool to help set a world record for the world’s largest swimming lesson.

And they received an “10” for their efforts, breaking last year’s record in a count now being verified by officials from the Guinness Book of World Records. The official numbers should be released by the end of the month.

This year’s 62 participants in Oro Valley – nearly twice as many as last year’s inaugural event – ranged in ages from 5 months to late 40s, said Catherine Atalla, the pool’s aquatics manager. Last year’s group set the record that was broken last week.

Fifteen Oro Valley staff members helped facilitate the event: Atalla, a program coordinator, 10 certified swim instructors and three swim assistants.

“We didn’t know how many to expect. Having twice as many as last year was a wonderful surprise,” said Atalla.

The 45-minute swim lessons happened simultaneously at pools all around the world in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record and raise awareness about the importance of teaching children how to swim to prevent drowning.

“The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson people sent a facility kit with a very specific lesson plan,” said Atalla. “For six minutes, we were to talk about water safety, the next eight minutes about something else, then freestyle swimming, then floating, and so on. This way everyone would be doing the same lesson at the same time around the world.”

The hardest part was keeping the younger children from jumping in the water when the schedule required them to sit and listen about water safety, Atalla noted.

“I used to be a swim instructor, and I wondered how long we could hold out before the kids got in the water,” she mused.

The work paid off, with local participants among the thousands who helped set a new word record. Each of the participants received a certificate reading “I’m a World Record Holder.”

Oro Valley got involved with the record-breaking effort through Jeff Ellis and Associates, Inc. The company is a supporting partner of the event and the group that certifies the town’s swimming instructors. Oro Valley also is a member of the National Recreation and Parks Association, which talked up the event.

No admission or instruction fee was charged so that anyone could participate, said Atalla.

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