For the second year in a row, the fiercely competitive CARIFTA Aquatics Championships has been put off. The announcement was made on Saturday in a communication from the host, the Barbados Aquatic Sports Association (BASA).
The Bahamas was set to take part in the swimming portion of the championships. The original date was set for April 3-7 at the Barbados Aquatics Center in Wildey, Barbados, but that was pushed back with no definitive date in sight. The Bahamas Aquatics Federation was set to send a strong swim team to defend their three-peat and get a chance to claim its sixth title in the last seven CARIFTA meets. Now, they will have to wait until 2022 for a chance to accomplish that.
“It is with utmost regret that the council (Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees) has agreed that under these persistent circumstances, we can no longer hold the federations in a state of uncertainty. We are therefore informing that Barbados is unable to host
CARIFTA 2021,” said Lady Cheryl Forde, BASA President.
Bahamas Aquatics President Algernon Cargill said that as a federation they are disappointed but understand the rationale behind the decision.
“We are naturally disappointed that CARIFTA Barbados is being canceled this year. We recognize that the athletes as well as their parents will be disappointed. When we put everything into perspective, we understand that cancellation would be the best outcome because there are just too many factors that would lead to not hosting CARIFTA,” Cargill stated.
According to Cargill, if the meet was going to be held in June, it would be at the same time as external examinations. If that was the case, the federation was not going to send a team to Barbados because in the federation, they advocate that school comes before sports.
In her letter, Lady Forde stated that their aquatic center has been closed for three weeks due to heavy ash fall from the La Soufrière Volcano eruption in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The pool is set to reopen today. She also stated that the spikes in COVID-19 in the neighboring states has been a concern for Barbados’ Ministry of Health.
“There continues to be spikes in the COIVD-19 pandemic in many of our neighboring states and this has added concern for the Ministry of Health in relation to CARIFTA being a regional tournament. The rescheduling of the Caribbean Examination Council’s examinations has also created an added challenge. This, too, has made it difficult to identify a date that would be suitable to host the competition,” Lady Forde said.
Cargill added that the quarantining in Barbados upon arrival was going to be another factor for Team Bahamas. He felt that the cost of the trip was going to increase exponentially. Like Lady Forde, Cargill hopes that widespread COVID-19 vaccination can help to improve conditions for next year.
With the cancellation, Cargill said that it will be disappointing for those who are aging out of CARIFTA this year. The age requirement for the junior regional swimming championships is under 18.
“It will be disappointing for those who are leaving CARIFTA competition, because they were not able to compete last year neither this year. I guess they will always have that what if question as they proceed to the next stage of their lives,” Cargill said.
Those athletes will still get a chance to compete in the Bahamas Aquatics Federation’s National Swimming Championships, set for June 24-27, with no spectators. The federation is expecting some international athletes to compete in the meet once COVID-19 protocols are followed.
Swimmers are required to swim at the nationals in order to be named to any national team later this year unless they receive an approved written waiver from the federation.
Asked if The Bahamas can step in and host this year’s CARIFTA, Cargill dispelled that notion.
“No. This is not the time to host a major international meet,” said Cargill. “It is not for the fear of COVID-19 but from a financial aspect. We do not have the financial resources to host and our corporate sponsorship is down because of the pandemic. As much as we would want to host it, it is financially not a good decision for us. We had the opportunity to host CCCAN (Central American and Caribbean Swimming Federation) Championships and we declined because we simply could not afford it. We would not have had the level of corporate support that we need given the austere measures that many businesses are facing.”
Lady Forde went on to state that Barbados is anxious to host the 2022 edition of CARIFTA, once the CARIFTA Secretariat extends the invitation for them to do so. Cargill said he would support Barbados hosting the 2022 edition.
“I would support it because it is not their fault that is was canceled,” Cargill said. “I am confident that had it not been for the current circumstances with COVID-19, Barbados would have been able to host CARIFTA this year or last year. They have always done a great job of hosting. We should not hold it against them.”
With CARIFTA Aquatics being canceled, countries will look to see what will happen with CARIFTA Track and Field as an announcement is slated for sometime this month. This year’s edition of the CARIFTA Games is scheduled for August 13-15, at the Bermuda National Sports Centre in Hamilton, Bermuda.