NORWALK, Conn. — Standing in a room overlooking Swim Seventy’s indoor six-lane 50-meter pool, Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling welcomed the Chinese Olympic Swim Team, which is training in the city on the road to the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
“We are so honored to have your team here in Norwalk, Connecticut,” Rilling told more than two-dozen people gathered for a ceremony Friday. “I can’t help but think this is the beginning of a new relationship between our wonderful city and China.”
Those training at the facility include swimmers who are currently at the top of world rankings, previous Olympic medalists, and Sun Yang — a current world record holder and the most successful Chinese swimmer ever.
The swimmers, coaches and support staff are the facility until the end of July, according to Swim Seventy.
The swimmers train in the pool twice per day for a total of four hours. They also use the facility’s gym.
Officials said the presence of the swimmers in the city would bring the United States and China closer together through the “universal language” of sports. “It crosses all languages, all age groups,” Rilling said.
Rilling, who presented a key to the city to Chinese representatives, added he hoped to visit China one day. “It’s a beautiful country,” he said.
State Sen. Bob Duff, who represents Darien and Norwalk in the state legislature, said he traveled to China and understands the need to train in within an hour or two of Rio’s time zone.
“I know what it’s like to be on a 12-hour trip, and I could not imagine a swim team going to the Olympics with a jet lag of 12 hours,” Duff said. “So having a place like Swim Seventy to practice and to train, get used to the time difference is really very, very important.”
State Rep. William Tong, who represents Stamford and Darien in the state legislature, is a Chinese-American and said the event is significant for his community.
“Bringing all of you here is incredibly meaningful for the Chinese-American community, and it is a proud day for all of us,” Tong said.
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