Trending: Where swimmers fill the water

A lifeguard supervises a beach in Darien. File Photo

A lifeguard supervises a beach in Darien. File Photo

We know that southwestern Connecticut is a haven for boaters, but did you know its one of the best places for swimmers in the entire nation?

A new analysis from Speedo by USA Swimming finds that the Bridgeport-Stamford Metropolitan Statistical Area (which has the same footprint as Fairfield County) is among the top 10 best markets in the nation for swimmers. The study based scores “on the highest aggregate in categories such as percentage of active swimmers and swim clubs, number of accessible pools and volume of top-level swimmers from the area,” according to USA Swimming.

“We have many clubs in close proximity that are quite distinct from each other, which gives numerous options for swimmers to select,” said Randy Erlenbach, head coach of the Wilton Wahoos. “With a passionate swimming community, there is an extremely high retention rate for young year-round, age-group swimmers which bodes well for the future of swimming in our area.”

Fairfield County came in fourth due to high scores across multiple categories. According to USA Swimming:

The community possesses some of the highest numbers of USA Swimming clubs, USA Swimming members and top-performing athletes.

Infographic from Speedo and USA Swimming

Infographic from Speedo and USA Swimming

“Areas like the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk corridor represent the best of the sport in America by placing focus on both community involvement on swim teams and Olympic headline makers,” said Matt Farrell, Chief Marketing Officer for USA Swimming. “This list can be an inspiration for kids and families everywhere to get involved in a sport that accommodates all lifestyles.”

“The swimming community is the core of the Speedo brand and we are proud to recognize these 50 cities for their leadership in the sport,” said Speedo USA President Jim Gerson. “These cities – and all the swimmers in each – are terrific ambassadors for our sport and an example of how, and why, participation in swimming continues to grow.”

Ann Arbor was the top-rated community, in part due to the city’s rich history of the sport at the Olympic and local level. More than 60 Olympians have emerged from University of Michigan’s swim program and respective USA Swimming clubs. Gold medalists Tyler Clary and Tom Dolan started their journey in Ann Arbor before taking a place atop the podium. In the last year, swimming participation grew 16 percent in Michigan, validating the sport’s significant impact within the community.

The ranking index was developed through a comparison of each city’s swim-related attributes relative to the overall U.S. population. Key elements included the number of current USA swimming members, number of masters swimmers and number of USA swimming clubs. The study also looked at the number of qualifying swimmers for high level competitions like the Speedo Champions Series, Speedo Junior Nationals, Phillips 66 National Swimming Championships, Olympic Trials and the Olympic Games, as well as Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) participation data, including the numbers of competitive and fitness swimmers, and the number of swim facilities open to the public in each city.

Maggie Gordon