WILDEY, Barbados – It was a grueling four days of competition for The Bahamas at the 34th CARIFTA Swimming Championships over the Easter holiday weekend into Tuesday, but the young swimmers ended the meet with a historic 73-medal haul that included a historic 35 gold medals en route to winning the championships for the third consecutive year. The four-day meet ended on Tuesday at the Barbados Aquatic Centre in Wildey, Barbados.
This was The Bahamas’ third straight victory and fifth in the past six years. The results of the open water swim competition were unavailable up to press time, but it won’t have an effect on the overall results.
The swimmers could not have done it without the help of the coaches who prepared them for the meet. Travano McPhee was the Head Coach. He was assisted by Andy Loveitt who coached the swimmers out of Grand Bahama and Jeff Slatter assisted McPhee with the New Providence swimmers.
An excited McPhee said it feels good to win, and to win three in a row feels even better.
“I know these athletes make it look easy, but it is not easy. Staying on par and dominating every year to win by over 100 points is not easy. To win all those gold medals was an outstanding job by the swimmers and we cannot ask for any more out of them. Hard work paid off, and as a coach being at the pool mornings and evenings is hard, but for the athletes to do it and still be student-athletes is amazing what they can do. I am very proud of them,” McPhee said.
The team trained consistently in preparation for CARIFTA. Loveitt said that his swimmers from Grand Bahama performed very well.
“Freeport has had a great meet. In the very beginning we said that some of these kids do not know what it means to lose, there is always that risk that if you always used to win you do not put that extra effort. We warned them on the first day and they stepped up. We had a little of a push from Jamaica on the second day and we responded to that well. Overall, I couldn’t be happier for the kids from Freeport. Preparation went well and they produced best times. I am very happy for the Freeport team,” Loveitt said.
There were 36 total members on the pool side of the swim team. The others were for open water swimming. McPhee said that coaching this team was not too difficult.
“We had eight senior boys, so the leadership was there. The team captains did an outstanding job and took the pressure off the coaches. We were able to coach instead of disciplining as the senior boys helped to discipline the younger boys in showing them the ropes, and leading them through some tough days of swimming,” said McPhee.
On the first day, the team won 21 medals. On the second day the team snagged 18 more to bring the two-day total to 39 medals. By the end of day three, after winning 15 medals, they had collected 55 in total. On the final day, they ran away from the competition, finishing with 73 total medals. Team Bahamas won 18 medals on the final day.
Looking forward to next year, Loveitt said that a few swimmers moved up in age so they will have to be replaced.
“Now that we are in the history books, we have to start thinking in terms of what will our 10-year-olds do at the national swimming championships as they will go into the 11-12 age group,” said Loveitt. “There is Marvin Johnson who secured 90 points and we need somebody to replace him. The 13-14 age categories are strong. We will lose Izaak Bastian, Samuel Gibson and Luke-Kennedy Thompson in the 15-17 boys category. We have a good base for next year. Jamaica and Bermuda are making a move and we have to make sure that we keep this going.”
Coach McPhee said the parental support was outstanding.
“The parents travelled on the charter flight by Bahamasair. Their support gives our swimmers that energy, hearing the cowbells and the drums to make that extra push in the last 15 meters, and they will pick up the extra points that we need. We are the loudest and the largest at CARIFTA every year, and the support is getting bigger,” McPhee said.
Next up for The Bahamas in swimming internationally is the CCCAN (Central American and Caribbean Swimming Federation) Championships, set for June 28 to July 2 in Barbados. Locally, the Bahamas Aquatics Federation (BAF) National Swimming Championships will be held from June 20-23, at the Betty Kelly-Kenning National Aquatics Complex.
Next year’s CARIFTA Swimming Championships are set to return to Barbados.