Diving at 11 Calgary pools temporarily banned

The City of Calgary​ has temporarily banned diving at 11 of its pools while it measures them to determine if they meet new depth standards imposed across the country after a teenage swimmer suffered life-altering injuries from a dive in Saskatchewan.

City officials expect some of Calgary's pools aren't deep enough to meet the national rules for diving from starting blocks, which will leave competitive swimmers with fewer places to train. Diving in any pool that doesn't conform to the new standards will be permanently banned.

"Most of the sites have a diving pool, so there is some availability for them to practise their dives in the dive pool," said Jack Birkett, aquatic operations co-ordinator for the city's recreation department. "It's not ideal."

Swimming Canada, the sport's governing body, imposed higher standards on pool depths after 16-year-old Miranda Biletski became a quadriplegic when she dove from the starting blocks at a University of Regina pool in 2005.

Reid Southwick/CBC

The pool's depth of 1.22 metres met Swimming Canada's guidelines at the time, which were imposed on all pools built before 2002. Newer pools had to be deeper — meeting a minimum depth of 1.35 metres — to allow diving from starting blocks.

After a national review, Swimming Canada created new rules that demand the more stringent 1.35-m depth for starting-block diving. Pools must be at least 1.2 m deep to allow for dives from pool decks.

As a result of the new rules, which came into effect Sept. 1, the City of Calgary has temporarily banned diving from all pool decks and starting blocks at municipally run facilities while it surveys pool depths to find out if they're in line with the standards.

Mike Blondal, the head coach of the University of Calgary's varsity swim team and its swim club, agrees some municipal facilities are not up to snuff. He expects there will be a shortage of pools where swimmers can train with starting blocks.

He said younger swimmers in his program, aged six to 14, rely on municipal facilities for competitive training with the blocks.

Other pools where older swimmers train, including the university's aquatic centre, are deep enough, Blondal said.

"There will be a shortage; without a doubt," he said.

The city's review is expected to be finished by the end of October.