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HISTORY OF SWIMMING IN LA RÍA DE NAVIA

Sweet water has always attracted manhood to swim in them, an activity, that half through the XIX century started to be considered a sport. Ría de Navia is one of those areas, and we have historical testimonies to prove the local swimming competitions that took place in its waters as back as 1916, 1929 and 1932;

A century later, there was a big explosion of swimming pool competitions. Navia and its river, was by then, very far away, in all the senses, of the big economical and social centres. At that time, there was in the area a summer university hostel and in August of 1958, the students staying there organised a competition amongst friends: Descenso a Nado de Ría de Navia. It has been fifty four uninterrupted years of celebration;

It is worth noting that the Descenso starts against the common practice of the time of competing mainly in the swimming pools. Obviously, in Navia, it wasn´t feasible to have a swimming pool and in the other hand the attractiveness of the river was far too strong;

In 1961, the initial competition gets completed with a swimmers parade round the village and a party for all the participants. It was also that year that we have the first Queen of the Descenso. That´s how the folklore and festivities get mixed with the sporting event;

In 1964 the Act´s program was already consolidated: a few days before the Descenso we have the Pregón or Opening Speech and the Queen and Dames Proclamation; then in Descenso´s day, we have the Swimmers Parade through Navia streets and the Offer to the Virgen de la Barca, after that we have the Fraternity Lunch with the swimmers and delegations plus all the people taking part in the parade (bagpipers and folk groups), and then in the afternoon, the swimming event and the PARADE to finalise it all with the Trophies Ceremony;

In 1964 gets also created the Asociación de Amigos de la Ría de Navia (AARNavia) to manage all the Descenso´s realization and activities;

In 1967 there is a new activity included in the program, the “Criterium de los Ases”. This was a swimming pool like competition but that took place in Navia harbourship conveniently prepared for such an occasion. The “Criterium” is part of the Descenso´s weekend until 2001 when the new harbour configuration makes it impossible to carry on with this competition;

1968: AARNavia is distinguished with the Bronze Medal to Sporting Recognition –a very important title accredited by the Spanish Government;

1973: the AARNavia requests from the local authorities the construction of appropriate swimming pools and installations for the practice of the sport. This will be the main objective for the AARNavia during the next twenty nine years;

In 1974 is created the “Club de Natación de los Amigos de la Ría de Navia (CNARNavia)” to accommodate for the practice of the sport by the local youth. From that year onwards, there is regular summer training in the river and harbour area and the club participates regularly in different regional competitions. Years later, as the club develops and gets bigger, the swimming club gets independent from the AARNavia as a new body;

In 1979 the AARNavia embarks in giving swimming lessons in the Palacio Arias Hotel pond (bigger by then that it is today), lend by the hotel owners, filled with water from the river. There were many repairs to deal with, such as sealing its cracks and installing a water connection with the river that would allow us the water renovation, to get a qualified swimming, a 20% of the yearly budget gets invested in these swimming lessons. All this, amongst all the critics from the sceptical, these was said to be the problem of Navia´s drought that summer;

These courses in the Palacio Arias were very successful with 250 children, from 5 to 13 years old, in its first year. 130 learnt to swim proficiently and 110 improved dramatically their style. During the 4 or 5 years that this installation worked will be a few hundred that learnt to swim there. At the same time, training in the harbour was still in place for those advanced swimmers;

When the Palacio Arias Hotel gets refurbished, the summer swimming lessons get moved to the swimming pool of a camping (Arbón) far away from Navia, where they die away because of the difficulties of getting there;

In 1979 starts the ¡Al Agua! Bulletin, still being published today. The AARNavia, by then, already hands out papers printed by cyclostyle with all the Descenso´s news: teams and swimmers participating, folk groups, etc… ¡Al Agua! means the formalisation of that news and also the openness to any other activity happening in Navia and wanting publicity. The new publication is a first incursion in an area –the cultural- that years later will be very strong in the Act´s program;

1979 is a prolific year as the MiniDescenso is also born. Today, thirty two years later, is still part of the Descenso as a popular event where everyone can participate and with a non competitive atmosphere;

In 1982, we celebrate the Silver Anniversary for the Descenso and there is a commemorative publication. This is another example of the cultural manifestations that lie within the Association;

1988: the Descenso gets the official mention as “Fiesta de Interés Turístico Nacional”;

1995 is the year when Rafael Blanco, President of the Spanish Swimming Federation, is the Opening Speecher. His visit means that Navia starts getting recognised in the Open Water Swimming scene-speciality that is by then growing and consolidating;

In 1996 the Descenso goes from 2400m to 5000m. And, three years later, in 1999, we create a second and complimentary event –the Asturias Cup-, that takes place in a river circuit with laps, in the same style of OWS competitions from the official LEN calendar. The synergy between the Descenso and Asturias Cup increases the attractiveness of Navia for the Open Water Swimmers;

Meanwhile the AARNavia doesn´t forget about the other activities and sponsors the publication of a book called “History of Descenso Internacional a Nado de la Ría de Navia – From 1958 to 1987”), that recovers and orders lots of historical data that risked to be lost and that also opens other cultural activities backed by the Association;

2000: New publication “An August week of swimming in Navia”, that narrates the experiences and sensations throughout the year before during the 4 swimming events that happened here in just one week. These were the Criterium de los Ases, Descenso, Asturias Cup and MiniDescenso. It closes with a descriptive text about the Ría de Navia course from its origin in the mountains of El Cebreiro to the sea;

2001: The Spanish OWS Team chooses Navia as its concentrating camp to prepare the yearly SuperFinal LEN OWS Cup. This first concentration and official participation of the Spanish OWS team in the Descenso and Asturias Cup, will happen frequently afterwards;

2003: The swimming pool complex and installations are officially opened on the 31st of January;

In 2004/05 Navia hosts the OWS Spanish Championships;

In 2005 the Folk Night is born –with its VII edition in 2011- emphasizing the cultural and festive side of the Descenso;

In 2006 there is an international achievement: LEN designates Navia as the official hosting of the SuperFinal LEN OWS Cup. And, in the years after 2007, 2008 and 2009, there will be different legs in Navia from this yearly competition;

2007: in the Golden Anniversary, the Association gets rewarded with the Silver level of the Medal to the Sporting Recognition that we first got back in 1968;

Two years later, 2009, the AARNavia is awarded the Principality of Asturias Silver Medal;

In 2009 the Descenso is shown live for the first time during four hours in prime time television.

2011: the European Swimming Federation chooses Navia as the scenery for the European OWS Junior Championships.

Summing up the thirty previous bullet points: the Descenso, today, is more than an OWS competition: it is a global event that aglutinates the sporting with the folk and festive and also the cultural. Besides, it puts to use and promote the name and image of the ría de Navia.

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