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Arianna retires

Bahamian swimming goddess ends swimming career
Bahamian swimming sensation Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace is retiring after a lengthy career in swimming. She now serves as a marketing liaison for Arena Swimwear for the southeast region of the United States. FILE

Perhaps The Bahamas’ greatest swimmer ever, male or female, is retiring after a swimming career that has spanned more than two decades.

Three-time Olympian Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, now 28, has represented The Bahamas at every level of swimming and pioneered the success of Bahamian swimming in a number of areas and in many events.

The multinational record holder was the first Bahamian to win a medal at the world championships (short course) in swimming; the first Bahamian to reach a final at the world championships and the Olympics in swimming; the first Pan Am Games Champion in swimming for The Bahamas; and the first medalist in swimming at the Commonwealth Games for The Bahamas, just to name a few.

She had an 11-medal haul at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games, inclusive of six golds; and was an icon for Auburn University, going down as one of that school’s all-time greatest swimmers. At Auburn, she was an 18-time All-American and a 10-time Southeastern Conference (SEC) champion. She was also a multi National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champion and a former U.S. Open record holder in the 100 meters (m) free.

At regional meets like CARIFTA, the Caribbean Islands Swimming Championships (CISC) and the Central American and Caribbean Swimming Federation (CCCAN) Championships, Vanderpool-Wallace stood out – heads and shoulders above her peers. She has numerous medals and meet records from those regional championships.

Vanderpool-Wallace had a period of being ranked in the top 10 in the world in the 50 and 100m free and the 50 and 100m fly, including in 2015, when she ended the year as high as number five in the world in the 50m free. She is the most decorated swimmer in Bahamian history with at least one medal at every level of competition, with the exception of the Olympics.

Vanderpool-Wallace’s individual senior national records long course are 24.31 seconds in the 50m free, 53.73 seconds in the 100m free, 25.53 seconds in the 50m fly, 58.87 seconds in the 100m fly and 2:21.67 in the 200m fly. She is also a member of numerous national record setting relay teams for The Bahamas in swimming.

Overall, Vanderpool-Wallace said she is satisfied with what she was able to accomplish in swimming.

“I came back and trained, and my heart just wasn’t into it anymore. I just decided that this was the right time to step down and open up the door for new people to come through,” said Vanderpool-Wallace. “I’m very satisfied. I did everything that God had in store for me, and I was able to accomplish a lot. I cannot complain with the career that I had. I remember being a young swimmer, going to CARIFTA, and thinking that would be the biggest swim meet that I would ever go to. I never envisioned accomplishing what I did, but I am so grateful. God has been good to me.”

Vanderpool-Wallace announced her retirement on Facebook this week. After returning from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, she joined Auburn staff as a graduate assistant and director of operations. In July 2017, Vanderpool-Wallace left Auburn and began training with the Wolfpack Elite Club in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Less than a year later, Vanderpool-Wallace is coming out of the pool, but she is remaining in Raleigh. She is now a marketing liaison for Arena Swimwear for the southeast region of the United States inclusive of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Louisiana.

Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace. AP

“It’s a huge responsibility, but I enjoy it,” she said. “I’m excited about this new chapter of my life. There is a great group of swimmers coming up behind me, so the future of the sport in The Bahamas is in great hands. I think that we are going to be really shocked to see the number of swimmers who will represent The Bahamas at the 2020 Olympic Games. They’re coming, and it’s real exciting to see that. There were many swimmers who came before me who laid down a path for me to follow, and there are definitely people who are coming up after me who are going to be even better. Joanna Evans (Bahamian swimmer at the University of Texas) is a tremendous talent, and she is in a position to do some great things. There are a number of them coming up, and they just have to work hard and work smart, and they will experience success.

“I believe that we could one day get that elusive Olympic medal in swimming. It’s hard for The Bahamas because we don’t have all the resources of some of the bigger countries, but there is a lot of talent in The Bahamas. A lack of resources when compared to some of the bigger countries is one of the challenges that we have, but that’s not to say that we, as a country, aren’t doing everything we can to get to that next level. Limited resources is just a part of being such a small country, but with the talent that we have, I believe that we will soon get an Olympic medal in swimming.”

As for those who paved the way for her, Vanderpool-Wallace had high praise for some of the legends of Bahamian swimming.

“Nikia Deveaux was the first Bahamian female swimmer to make an Olympic team, so she really opened the door for us to follow. Also, there was Jeremy Knowles, who set a standard of excellence; Alana Dillette, who was on a number of teams with me, and so many more. The Bahamas is blessed to have had great talent in swimming,” she said.

The Bahamian swimming goddess said that the passion she once had to compete is no longer there. She had a swimming career that many in her sport could only dream of, and her achievements were recognized nationally, as she was honored as one of the country’s all-time greats in sports when she was placed on the Sports Legends Walk of Fame at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium in 2015.

Still, it is the general consensus that more could be done to recognize this national hero.

“It was great to have an opportunity to represent such an amazing country so many times, whether it was just me or whether I was with others. It was an exciting feeling, and I cherish every minute of it,” said Vanderpool-Wallace. “The majority of pressure I had when I competed was pressure that I put on myself. I just wanted to do the best that I could do, and once I did that, I was satisfied. There were times when I wished that I could have done some things differently, but I wouldn’t say there are any regrets. I’m completely satisfied with what I was able to do.”

Vanderpool-Wallace said that one of the moments that defined her swimming career was when she qualified for her first Olympics in 2008 in Beijing, China, as a 17-year-old. She finished just short of the semifinals in the 50m and 100m free at those Olympics. Four years later, she was in the Olympic final in the 50m free in London, England, making history for The Bahamas as the first Bahamian to advance to an Olympic final in swimming.

Vanderpool-Wallace committed to Auburn University after that, and went on to have a dominant collegiate career for the Auburn Tigers.

For much of her professional career, she was sponsored by BTC locally and FINIS Inc. internationally. She said that she is grateful for her sponsorship from both, which played a huge role in her being able to focus on training and competition and not worry about funding.

Despite her new role with Arena, Vanderpool-Wallace will be here in the country for the swimming nationals which is set for next weekend. The Bahamas Aquatics Federation (BAF) National Swimming Championships will be held June 16-19, at the Betty Kelly-Kenning National Aquatics Complex. All of the top swimmers in the country are expected to be home for the swimming nationals.

For the first time in a number of years, Vanderpool-Wallace will not be competing. She is perhaps The Bahamas’ greatest swimmer ever, and The Nassau Guardian sports team wishes her all the best in her retirement and her future endeavors.

 

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