Young Bahamian swimmers are faced with an opportunity to chase history and stake their claim as being the most dominant junior swimming programme in the region.
Algernon Cargill, president of the Bahamas Swimming Federation, said the 36-member team is set on “defying all the odds” when they compete in the 31st CARIFTA Swim Championships March 22-26 in Fort-de-France, Martinique.
“Winning CARIFTA was difficult for the first time two years ago and repeating last year in Barbados was even more difficult. We are focused in the federation in defying all the odds and ‘three-peating’ as champions in Martinique,” he said. “Going to Martinique will be hostile territory because of the language barrier and cultural differences and also both Martinique and Guadeloupe, the champions before the Bahamas dethroned them, will be looking to return to their standing at the top. Having said that we are prepared for all the odds. We seek to maintain the reputation that the federation has generated as the number one swimming country in the Caribbean.”
The Bahamas won the title for the first time in Savaneta, Aruba, in 2014. The 36-member team finished with a total of 736.50 points, more than 100 points ahead of the host team Aruba, who was second with 618 points. Guadeloupe finished third with 540 points, Martinique was fourth with 474 points, while Trinidad and Tobago rounded out the top five with 446 points.The Bahamas claimed 55 medals en route to the win, including 23 gold, 22 silver and 10 bronze. Aruba finished with 51 medals – 16 gold, 16 sliver and 19 bronze. Trinidad and Tobago won 34 medals – 16 gold, 11 silver and seven bronze, Suriname won a total of 26 medals – 15 gold, three silver and eight bronze, while Guadeloupe won 36 medals – 10 gold, 10 silver and 16 bronze.
They retained the title in Bridgetown, Barbados, last year. The Bahamas won the meet again with a total of 756.50 points, more than 100 points ahead of the host team Barbados, who was second with 642.50 points. Trinidad and Tobago finished third with 494.50 points, Guadeloupe was fourth with 478 points, while Jamaica rounded out the top five with 456 points. The Bahamas claimed 54 medals en route to the win, including 29 gold, 17 silver and eight bronze. Barbados finished with 52 medals – 30 gold, 12 sliver and 10 bronze. Trinidad and Tobago won 38 medals – 12 gold, 13 silver and 13 bronze, Aruba won a total of 35 medals – 10 gold, 13 silver and 12 bronze, while Guadeloupe won 25 medals – eight gold, 11 silver and six bronze
The swim team, coached by Allan Murray, assisted by Sara Knowles and Travano McPhee, will comprise six competitors in the girls 11-12 age group, four in the 13-14 and six in the 15-17 category. The boys will have five swimmers in the 11-12 group, seven in the 13-14 and seven in the 15-17. One additional swimmer is still waiting ratification.
The open water team, coached by Andy Loveitt and Mancer Roberts Jr, will be made up of 10 swimmers in the boys and girls 13-14 and 15-17 divisions only.
The team competes in the pool March 22 to 25 with the open water swim on March 26. The team is scheduled to return from Martinique that day.
With the success of the junior national programme in recent years, it has created new opportunities for the sport as the Bahamas prepares to host the Caribbean Island Swimming Championships this summer.
“This is the first time this championship is coming to the Bahamas. The CISC is a step higher than CARIFTA so this will include many senior athletes who are aspiring to qualify for the Olympic Games. We have made it mandatory for our senior athletes to compete in these games because we recognise the importance as well as the profile it provides for the Bahamas and the federation,” Cargill said.
“We have seen the federation grow to where we have over 1,000 swimmers now competing at nationals and this tells us that the sport is growing. One of the things we are still attempting to do is erase the erroneous stigma that swimming is an elitist sport. We try to dispel that notion because we have Bahamians from every socioeconomic standard.”