The closure of Dundee’s Olympia pools could dash the dreams of a Paralympic medal hopeful.
Aspiring Paralympian Jack Milne is now forced to make a daily three-hour round trip to Aberdeen to train as he bids to qualify for Paris 2024.
His coach David Haig fears Jack’s place in the Great Britain team could be at risk unless he leaves Dundee permanently.
And he has branded the situation “an embarrassment to the city”.
Jack 20, who is on the autistic spectrum, gets up early to train before college and also uses pools at local schools.
And he said: “With Olympia being closed, it has affected my ability to train.”
Jack’s story comes as Tayside swimming clubs say the Olympia closure has hit them ‘like a hammer blow’ as swimmers and water polo players struggle for pool time.
The £32 million complex closed in October due to corrosion issues and could be shut for at least another year.
‘I get quite tired’
Jack competes as a para-swimmer for Dundee City Aquatics, as well as for Scotland and Great Britain.
He said: “I am on podium potential for Britain but I need to train a certain amount each day.
“I have to go to Aberdeen to train and I have to go to different schools in Dundee so I get quite tired. I have to get up quite early.”
Jack also fears for the future of other Dundee swimmers.
“Some younger ones might want to leave,” he said.
“We can’t really risk losing that talent.
“When I was younger, I was shy and had no aspirations.
“But swimming has given me so much as an athlete but also who I am as a person.
“There’s a competition pool in Dundee but we have to travel and it’s quite cruel actually.”
He believes the sooner Olympia opens, the better, adding: “If it could be fixed, it would improve people’s mental and physical health.”
Is Dundee Olympic swimming pool closure a hurdle to Jack’s success?
Meanwhile, Jack’s coach David is worried that the closure could stand in the way of his Paralympic selection.
He said: “Dundee cannot provide an adequate programme for Jack due to the Olympia closure and an inability of Leisure and Culture Dundee to understand and engage meaningfully.
“The result may be Jack will fail to achieve his goal of qualifying for the Paralympics in Paris and Los Angeles.
“Or he will have to leave Dundee to succeed, which would be an embarrassment to the city.”
A Paralympic medal is ‘just as good as the Olympics’
Jack’s dreams of Paralympic success have been strong since he was a sixth year pupil at Harris Academy.
And he has continued to put in the hours to excel at his passion.
In 2020, in an interview with the Evening Telegraph, Jack opened up about what swimming means to him.
He said: “I feel like if I didn’t have autism I wouldn’t be me. I just find that really odd.
“Being on the spectrum has its ups and downs but, overall, it makes me who I am.
“I’m happy not to be treated differently because some people see the disability before the ability and that’s quite sad.
“A Paralympic medal is just as good as a medal at the Olympics – a world record is a world record.
“It’s the exact same thing, we’re just a wee bit different.”