A few weeks ago I’ve been to my nephew’s graduation ceremony. He’s only 5 years old, but is already a graduate – he’s got his swimming diploma! Holland has more water than any other European country, therefore, all Dutch kids are taught how to swim as soon as possible. Not only are they taught how to swim, they must know how to stay afloat with clothes on, because as the Dutch reasonably assume, one usually doesn’t take one’s clothes off before accidentally falling into a channel. I wasn’t brought up here, and I didn’t pass these rites myself. So while I was theoretically aware of the concept of “diploma swimming”, I didn’t really know what to expect.
I thought there would be a few kids and their parents, the kids would show they are able to stay afloat and perhaps swim a couple of meters, and we’d all go home. I was in for a double shock. Firstly, the pool side was teeming with mums, dads, uncles, grandma’s and all other types of relatives. It wasn’t just me who was surprised by the massive show of support for the little swimmers. My wife, who was brought up here, was quite amazed, too. Apparently, in recent years, what originally was a modest ceremony, has grown out to be a hugely important event. There must have been at least 300 people there. Of course, our hero was supported by a team of 9 relatives, so we also did our best to show presence.
The second surprise of the day came as the actual swimming started. It was just the A-diploma swimming (there’s also B and C), but it looked like a team of Navy Seals doing aqua ballet. They were swimming hundreds of meters in various styles, diving through hoops and dancing in the water. And they were dressed, too – including shoes! Mind you, the average age was about 5.5 and it was their A-diploma. By the end of the show I was wondering what they do for the B-diploma – pour oil on the surface and light it up? I guess the ones that get to their C-diploma alive are certified as deep-sea divers. With rescue qualifications. One thing I know – I won’t miss his next swimming graduation for the world.