Beyond swimming and diving, financial support is key. GETTY IMAGES

The World Aquatics Support Programme provides essential funding for the strategic development of National Federations, providing a significant boost where smaller federations need it to grow.

Several National Federation leaders, such as those in Colombia and the Cook Islands, have emphasised the value and benefits of the financial support provided by World Aquatics.

For most National Aquatics Federations, it's not just about swimming and diving for medals, it's about developing aquatics at various levels in their home countries. This requires support of all kinds, but financial support is paramount.

"It is very important for us and gives us the necessary tools to focus on the development of athletes in all sports," says Camilo Becerra, the executive director of the Colombian Swimming Federation (FECNA). "We also have programmes in water polo, swimming, diving, artistic swimming and open water swimming.

Romani Katoa, President of the Cook Islands Aquatic Federation (CIAF), is also grateful to Becerra, although he has different goals and strategies, more related to his natural environment. "Without the funding we receive, there is no way we can reach out to our community and achieve what we do with our swimming programmes, it's as simple as that," says Katoa.

"Swimming is in our DNA as Polynesians, as navigators and sailors. Unfortunately, over time it hasn't become a mainstream sport and that's how our people see it. We're trying to bring it back to what our ancestors did.

Romani Katoa, President of the Cook Islands Aquatic Federation. WORLD AQUATICS
Romani Katoa, President of the Cook Islands Aquatic Federation. WORLD AQUATICS

"We've found that through the school swimming programme we've introduced, any one of these kids can become an Olympic or world champion, given the right environment, resources and opportunities," Kaota enthuses.

Katoa points out that there are no 50m pools in the 15 islands that make up the South Pacific nation. "We teach all our swimming in the lagoon," explains the CIAF president. Hence the importance of funding to develop the infrastructure that will empower athletes.

That's why it's so important to grow the base. "The more people we can get swimming and understanding swimming at a grassroots level, the bigger the pool of athletes we'll be able to draw from for our elite programmes," explains Katoa. "From there we can send them to Australia on scholarships to improve their elite performance," he said in an interview with World Aquatics.

Morgane Gaultier, Senior Manager of Development, Athletes, Coaches and Non-Sporting Events at World Aquatics, provided the vision and global strategy behind the development programme and the funding available to National Federations.

"The idea is to promote the development of aquatic sports at national level through financial support. The aim is to encourage National Federations to initiate projects for competition management, infrastructure, administration, governance and athletes. The programme celebrates the rich diversity of aquatic sports and fosters an inclusive environment where each sport can thrive and excel," said Gaultier.

Based on participation in previous Aquatics World Championships and the assessment of key information provided in a good governance survey, National Federations are eligible to receive $25,000 (€23,500) annually, with a bonus of $5,000 (€4,685) if their overall score improves from the previous year. 

According to Gaultier, a maximum of 25 percent of the World Aquatics Support Programme funds can be used for governance projects, while the remaining 75 percent or more must be used for athlete-focused activities.

"Athletes are at the heart of our sport," said Gaultier. "When we say it's for the athletes, it means direct support for them to participate in competitions and/or indirect support to develop training programmes or invest in improving pool facilities, for example."

Morgane Gaultier, Senior Manager of Development for World Aquatics. LINKEDIN
Morgane Gaultier, Senior Manager of Development for World Aquatics. LINKEDIN

"The programme can be segmented in many ways, with annual projects that include support for athletes to compete, and long-term initiatives that focus on governance or education programmes, among others. We work closely with the National Federation to ensure that these aspects are carefully considered,", he pointed out.

"In 2024, 184 out of 210 National Federations were eligible for funding. In 2025, almost all National Federations will qualify based on their participation in the last World Aquatics Championships - Doha 2024," Gaultier continued.

As the largest of the World Aquatics development programmes, the Support Programme has an annual budget of approximately four million US dollars. World Aquatics launched the project in 2018.

"When smaller federations say we're going to use half of the funding to go to a continental or world aquatics event, we agree because that's how athletes gain experience. Without this funding, many of them wouldn't make it, so it has really helped our sport grow internationally and become more universal," Gaultier concluded.