Bastian, Gibson and Thompson end CARIFTA career on high note
It was a bittersweet moment for three of the older swimmers of Team Bahamas as they swam in their final CARIFTA Swimming Championships at the Barbados Aquatics Centre, in Wildey, Barbados, over the Easter holiday weekend. Three swimmers who ended their CARIFTA careers were team captains Izaak Bastian, Luke-Kennedy Thompson, and Samuel Gibson.
All three said they were happy that The Bahamas won CARIFTA in their final year of eligibility. The Bahamas finished the four-day meet as the overall winner with 889.50 points. Jamaica was second with 748 points and Trinidad and Tobago finished third with 676 points. It was the third straight CARIFTA swimming title for The Bahamas, and fifth in the past six years.
Also, it was a special CARIFTA for these three swimmers as they all had siblings as a part of Team Bahamas.
Thompson had two siblings on the team – younger brother Mark-Anthony, who also swam in the 15-17 boys category, and younger sister Zaylie-Elizabeth Thompson who swam in the 13-14 girls category.
Samuel Gibson had his younger sister Salene Gibson along for the ride. Salene swam in the 13-14 girls category.
Bastian had his older brother Drew Bastian as one of the team’s chaperones in Barbados, giving the swimmers tips and advice after races.
It was a great meet for Bastian, winning five individual gold medals and three gold medals in the relays.
He also broke three CARIFTA records – the 50 meters (m) freestyle record when he split 23.18 seconds in the 4x50m relay, to lower the previous record of 23.25 seconds set by himself in Jamaica last year; the 50m breaststroke record when he swam 28.20 seconds to break his old record of 28.69 seconds from a year ago and also achieve the FINA (International Swimming Federation) World Championships ‘B’ qualifying time; and the 100m breaststroke when he swam 1:02.84 to break his own record of 1:03.12from a year ago.
Bastian who also helped to break three relay meet records, said in an interview prior to the CARIFTA championships, that he went into CARIFTA lacking rest. He also picked up individual gold medals in the 50m butterfly and 200m breaststroke events. He said the records were a confidence booster for him.
“Now I know that we are doing something right in practice and I just need to trust my coaches when I go back and put my head down and keep at it,” he said. “To break records when I was not expecting to go anywhere near my best times is a great feeling because this shows that sometimes it just takes some heart and rest is more mental than you think. Coming in with the mindset that I must go out and see what I can do by just giving it my all, that is all you need sometimes,” he added.
In the 4x50m freestyle relay, Bastian and his teammates, DaVante Carey, Kevon Lockhart and Lamar Taylor, broke the CARIFTA record of 1:35.30 that was held by Suriname. They swam 1:35.18.
In the 4x100m medley relay, Bastian, Carey, Ian Pinder and Lockhart posted a record-breaking time of 3:54.32. They broke the record set by Team Bahamas last year, 3:56.06.
Bastian, Carey, Taylor and Lockhart then secured a record-breaking time of 3:33.68 in the 4x100m freestyle relay. The previous record was 3:33.73, set by Trinidad and Tobago.
Bastian and Gibson have been on the team together since 2013.
Gibson helped his relay team to cart off the gold medal in the 4x200m freestyle relay. The team included Thompson, Lockhart and Taylor. Gibson said that it was a mixture of emotions for him.
“It’s a mixture of emotions because you are sad – it has a been a long journey and you been through so many things – and I am excited because I see the new talent coming up and it is nice to see Bahamian swimming continuing to grow, prosper and do well. I am leaving it on a good note, seeing that the state we the seniors founded it in was not good. I remember us finishing fifth in my first year and now we are consistently winning so seeing that progress continue and the with the younger generation coming up and stepping up and doing just as good as any other team did is heart-warming for me,” Gibson said.
Apart from the 4x200m freestyle relay, he swam in the 200m freestyle and 200m butterfly events but did not win a medal.
For Bastian, swimming in his seventh straight and final CARIFTA was bittersweet. He commended his 15-17 boys’ teammates, especially Thompson.
“It is nice to go out on top especially with a team like this. We had a great senior boys team this year – a group of guys that I could not be prouder of, Luke especially who came and surprised everyone winning high point by giving it his all. It is sad that it is over and hopefully we are on to bigger and better things,” Bastian said.
This was Thompson’s third time on the team. He was selected last year after he first made the team in 2014, but missed the team in 2015, 2016 and again in 2017.
“One thing that I never did after not being on the team all those years, was to give up. I always try to show to the younger kids out here to never give up because you do not know what you can do until you try.” Thompson said.
Thompson won the first medal, a gold, for Team Bahamas at this year’s CARIFTA in the 1,500m freestyle. His time was 16:37.95 that gave him a Pan American Games ‘B’ qualifying time. He said that was a special race for him because his younger brother was in that race and came away with the bronze medal. Mark-Anthony Thompson swam the race in 17:09.40.
The elder Thompson felt that winning that gold played a role in motivating the team.
“It did play a role in motivating the team to push hard and give it their all in their races. I give kudos to all the senior boys, we really got a good group of kids here and we were able to bond and get together well and show them the ropes. I felt that we were not only Team Bahamas but we were a family,” Thompson said.
Thompson won the 15-17 boys high point award, scoring 52 points. Individually, he won gold in the 1500m freestyle, and the 200 and 400m Individual Medley (IM) races. His only silver medal was in the 100m breaststroke event. He came away with bronze in the 200m breaststroke, and 200 and 400m freestyle events. He also helped his team win the 4x200m freestyle relay.
Thompson said he was surprised he swam so good this year, but he knew that he put in a lot of hard work and dedication.
“I just put my all into it and I came out winning high point and all these medal I never expected that I would get but with God I swam my heart out and came through for The Bahamas,” Thompson said.
Bastian, Gibson and Thompson all had an opportunity to don the aquamarine, black and gold both at home and abroad. They said they were proud to represent the country at CARIFTA.
“I felt proud to be a Bahamian. Every time you step up on the pool deck and hop in the pool to swim you know the whole country is relying on you. I wanted to do the best I can for them and my family and the other families that were at the games because it is such a tight knit family. It was an immense feeling of pride, joy and responsibility. In the end, it was worth it,” Gibson said.
Bastian noted: “It was a real honor. It is not something that everyone gets to experience, especially for seven years. You have to take a step back and appreciate it because sometimes people take it for granted. Every year I try to represent the best that I could and wear my colors with pride.”
Thompson said: “I just want to say it has been a real honor to be on the team. I want to thank God for allowing me to come here and witness all of this and to bond with the team – being able to be near them is amazing. It has been a great last ride,”
Although The Bahamas’ junior swim team loses three talented swimmers, there are swimmers coming up behind them. Bastian mentioned swimmers such as 12-year-old Marvin Johnson and 15-year-old Lamar Taylor as talented young swimmers coming up behind them.
“People like Marvin and Lamar who are coming up are showing talent and promise for the program. I do believe that I am leaving it in good hands and I trust that they do what they need to do, be good leaders and lead by example, keep their head up at all times even if it is not in a victory and give it their all every time,” said Bastian.
Thompson added: “We have a very good team – a group of very skilled and talented kids and I feel that the team is in good hands. Not only did I, Samuel and Izaak pass on all the knowledge to them but we feel that with hard work, training and dedication, these kids will do exceptionally well.”
For the young swimmers, Bastian had this advice: “Do not take anything for granted. We had a group of hard-working guys this year and some young talent coming up who have to keep working if they want to win some more. It takes hard work and you cannot come in here expecting a victory like some of these younger kids who have not been on a team that haven’t lost yet. They do not know what it is like to fight for a victory or fight for every single point to try and scrape up a place or two. They have to keep fighting.”
Gibson’s advice to the youngsters was simple – work hard and listen to coaches and parents.
“I just want to say to them to keep on working hard and always listen to your coaches. The coaches know what they are talking about. I also want to say listen to your parents because they are always there for you. They and the coaches know what is best for you,” Gibson said.
After the team returned home from Barbados, Thompson led a final chant with his teammates: “Whose house? Our house. Whose house? Our house. Whose house? Our house. 2-4-2 Ah!”
For Bastian, he will finish off his freshman year at Florida State University (FSU). Gibson is a freshman at Pace University in New York, and Thompson is a student at St. Andrew’s School here in Nassau.
They said they will now turn their attention to qualifying for senior meets, ultimately the Olympics.
Jump Line – They will now turn their attention to qualifying for senior meets, ultimately the Olympics
Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism
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