Belgium took home 18 medals from the European Life Saving Championships in Spain, which put lifeguards to the test when it comes to skills like aquatic life saving, resuscitation of the apparently drowned and emergency care.
“Our country is not that big and we don't have that many athletes who do life saving. To be at the European Championships among all these other countries and to win medals is really fantastic,” Belgium’s coach Roel Engels told Radio 2.
Two of the medal winners are members of the Reddingsclub Ternat-Asse-Lebbeke, just outside of Brussels.
With around 480 members, that club is one of the larger ones, which Roel says is due to the fact that they allow children as young as three to come learn to swim.
“They don't all come for the lifeguard swimming. They first learn to swim and then later they can become a lifeguard,” Roel told VRT.
They begin learning in a more playful way, he explained.
“Already they learn some basic skills such as diving under water, diving for something or swimming with a doll. That's how we build it up.”
The European Life Saving Championships are held every two years, but a junior division for those 18 years old or younger is organised annually.
“It's a fun and varied sport,” Roel said.
“It's not just swimming, we also do other things. In the summer we're on the beach. Then we swim in open water. Then we do running tests on the beach, some kind of surfing and kayaking on the water. Everyone finds their thing in it.”
Lifeguard swimming is becoming more popular in Belgium.
“At our club we don't expect an immediate increase in membership, because we already have to turn people away due to a shortage of swimming water,” said Roel.
“This makes it difficult for us to grow, but interest continues to rise.”
The Brussels Times