It has been a little over two years since Olympian swimmer for The Bahamas Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace retired from the sport. Now, she is advocating for more opportunities for swimming in The Bahamas.
Vanderpool-Wallace was a guest on the 65th episode of podcast show, Inside with Brett Hawke, earlier this month, where she discussed a wide range of topics, centered around her career and the genesis of an illustrious career.
She said that there is a lot of talent in The Bahamas and a lot of those swimmers are lost because they cannot afford to continue swimming. She said that she is thankful to her father, former tourism minister Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, who had the means to send her to the Bolles School – a private boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida.
“I think we lose a ton of talent not just in The Bahamas but in a lot of places… people not being able to afford to go on and do stuff like that,” said Vanderpool-Wallace. “I know 100 percent that if I did not go to Bolles, my career would have worked out differently, if I had one at all. I think there needs to be more opportunities for kids to be able to see stuff like that. I think that is why track is so big in The Bahamas – it is not that expensive because you can go out and train anywhere. That is kind of where the diversion happens. It is far cheaper to be in track than it is to be in swimming.”
The 2012 Olympic finalist in the 50 meters (m) freestyle said that it is more difficult in The Bahamas to continue swimming past the junior level because there is not a university system locally. She added that it is difficult to move into the United States of America’s swimming system when coaches do not see a swimmer’s short course yards time. Junior swimmers utilize 25 or 50 meter pools in The Bahamas.
“There are so many swimmers who I know from The Bahamas who
probably could have been faster than me. They just didn’t want to keep doing it and have gone on to be great professionals in their own aspect. It is sad the number of swimmers who I have seen who just do not want to do it anymore. They turn 15-years-old and start to think that academics is going to be a better opportunity at a scholarship, so they work harder in the classroom – which is not a bad thing but I think there is room to do both and people don’t really see that available,” Vanderpool-Wallace stated.
After completing Bolles, Vanderpool-Wallace went on to Auburn University, where she was a national champion in both the 50 and 100-yard free events at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships in 2011. She is also a former US Open record holder.
She laments the fact that some persons cannot swim and parents are not teaching their children how to swim because they themselves do not know how to swim.
“I think that part of the problem in The Bahamas is – and I think that it is usually a discussion that is had in the black community as a whole, parents don’t know how to swim, so they can’t teach their kids how to swim. It is kind of an ongoing circle where no one is learning to swim. They are afraid to take you to the pool because they can’t save you. It is definitely more important in The Bahamas to get people in the pool. It is really sad when you hear about people going to the beach in The Bahamas and drowning because nobody there can save them,” said Vanderpool-Wallace.
Hawke asked the retired competitive swimmer if there is a belief in the Black community that Black people cannot swim, and she said that it is not so much that, but it was more of a socio-economic situation in The Bahamas.
“I think in the US there is, but I think in The Bahamas it is not much Black kids who can’t swim but it is more like we as a people don’t know how – it is not a colored thing,” she said. “I have this discussion with so many people and growing up in The Bahamas, I had no idea that this was a thing. It was more like a socio-economic thing in The Bahamas where people just don’t have the money to get into a pool and their kids tend not to try and search out for those things to learn how to swim.”
Vanderpool-Wallace mentioned the parents of Bahamian Olympic swimmer Jeremy Knowles, Andy and Nancy Knowles. She said they have always been instrumental in their children’s lives as it relates to swimming and work locally to teach other children to swim. As of February 29, the couple surpassed the 1,000 children mark in youngsters taking swimming lessons with them, just since September 2019. Vanderpool-Wallace stated that she has a lot of respect for them for doing what they do, since many don’t partake as there is not a lot of money in it, rather than doing it out of the goodness of one’s heart.
Vanderpool-Wallace said she tried her hand at track and field but it was nowhere close to swimming in terms of her enjoyment level. She said her mother took her to her first swimming practice session and from then she knew that she wanted to be a swimmer.
Currently, Vanderpool-Wallace serves as the southeast marketing representative for Arena Swimwear.