What a way to bring in your 21st birthday!
Bahamian swimming sensation Joanna Evans, who will celebrate her 21st birthday on Wednesday, won three medals for The Bahamas at the 23rd Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Barranquilla, Colombia, over the weekend.
Olympic swimmer Evans won the women’s 200 and 400 meters (m) free events, and nearly missed a third individual gold medal, finishing second in the 100m free, as the swimming competition of the games progressed at the Aquatic Complex of Barranquilla.
Evans was simply dominant in the final of the women’s 400m free on Friday, winning in a games record time of 4:11.15. She got out to an early lead and never relinquished it, winning by more than three seconds over her nearest competitor. Allyson Ayumi Macias Alba, of Mexico, was second in 4:14.74, and Helena Moreno Hernandez, of Costa Rica, finished third in 4:15.51. Evans’ time erased the old games record of 4:11.36 that was set by Andreína Pinto, of Venezuela, in 2010. Evans was the top qualifier for the final, swimming 4:16.63 in the heats.
Evans came back the following night and struck gold in the 200m free, winning in a games and national record of 1:58.03 – the fastest swim ever by a Caribbean female athlete. This time she had to work a bit harder as Cuban Elisbet Gamez Matos was close behind for the silver, finishing in 1:58.55. She pushed Evans all the way, leading to the new CAC and national record. Mexican Liliana Ibanez Lopez won the bronze medal, finishing in 2:01.36. Evans was the second fastest qualifier for the final behind Gamez Matos. She swam 2:02.82 in the heats. In the final, Evans broke the games record of 2:00.19 that was set by Costa Rica’s only Olympic gold medalist, Claudia Poll, in 2006. She also erased her own national record of 1:59.19 that she set at the 2017 Summer Universiade in Taipei, Taiwan. Her record swim qualified her for the 2018 FINA (International Swimming Federation) World Short Course Championships in Hangzhou, China; the 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru; and the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.
The University of Texas swimmer told draftingthecaribbean: “Going in, I knew it would be a close race. It’s always exciting to be able to race. It’s hard to tell how fast you’re going because it’s a little on the warm side, but I felt good. It’s great to get Team Bahamas fired up.”
Evans wasn’t done yet. She struck silver in the final of the women’s 100m free, finishing in 55.29 seconds. Colombia’s Isabella Arcila Hurtado just out-touched Evans for the gold, winning in 55.21 seconds. Ibanez Lopez once again won bronze, finishing in 55.29 seconds. Evans swam 56.51 seconds in the heats. It was her third medal of the meet after winning gold in both the 200 and 400m free events. The games record of 54.87 seconds was set by the recently retired Bahamian swimmer Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace in 2014.
Evans became the first Bahamian, man or woman, to win the 200m free at the CAC Games, and the first to complete the 200 and 400m free double at the CAC Games. She is also building on the tremendous success of Vanderpool-Wallace in 2014. Vanderpool-Wallace won four individual gold medals at the 2014 CAC Games in Veracruz, Mexico. At those same games, Evans won two individual silver medals – in the 400 and 800m free events.
Also swimming for The Bahamas over the weekend were Lilly Higgs and Laura Morley. Both advanced to the final of the women’s 100m breast where they finished fifth and sixth in times of 1:11.32 and 1:12.34 respectively. Higgs won her morning heat in 1:13.32. Morley swam in a faster heat and finished second in 1:11.79. In the final, Jamaican Alia Atkinson won the gold medal in 1:06.83.
Higgs and Morley also swam in the final of the women’s 50m breast on Sunday. Higgs just missed a medal, finishing fourth in 32.59 seconds. She was just off her personal best national record time of 32.52 seconds. Morley was seventh in that final in 33.50 seconds. Atkinson won the gold in a games record time of 30.19 seconds, Byanca Melissa Rodriguez Villanuev finished second in 31.20 seconds and Mercedes Toledo, of Venezuela, won the bronze in 31.99 seconds. Higgs and Morley swam times of 32.78 and 33.33 seconds respectively, in the heats.
Izaak Bastian swam in the men’s 100m breast on Saturday and advanced to the final. In the final, he swam a personal best of 1:02.91 to finish seventh. Jorge Mario Murillo Valdes, of the host nation Colombia, won the gold medal in 1:00.37. Bastian qualified out of the heats in 1:02.99. In the men’s 50m butterfly on Sunday, Bastian was sixth in his heat in 25.46 seconds and failed to make the final. N’Nyhn Fernander advanced to the B final of the 50m fly after swimming 25 seconds flat in the heats. He was third in the B final in 24.74 seconds.
Kohen Kerr swam in the heats of the men’s 100m free on Friday, but failed to advance to the final. He was sixth in his morning heat in 52.58 seconds.
The sailing segment of the games is being held at the Marina de Puerto Velero in Barranquilla.
Spencer Cartwright has completed seven of the nine races in the men’s laser class and sits in 10th place. His best result so far is an eighth place finish that came in the fifth race of the series. In the open sunfish, Paul de Souza has completed six of the nine scheduled races. His best finish so far is a sixth place. He finished sixth in the fifth and sixth races of the series.
The team of James “Jimmie” Lowe and Michael McSweeney are competing for The Bahamas in the open snipe class. They retired in the first race of the nine-race series, and have not started the remaining three races that were held over the weekend.
The 23rd CAC Games continues today in Barranquilla.
Education: College of The Bahamas, Associates in Accounting