As of yesterday, the 2020 CARIFTA Swimming and Water Polo Championships have officially been canceled.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still lingering, officials thought it would be necessary to put off the meet, making this the first edition to be canceled. The championships got started in 1985.
The meet was set to be held at the Barbados Aquatics Center in Wildey, Barbados, for a second straight year. The water polo portion was slated for April 3 to 5 and the swimming portion, inclusive of open water swimming, was set to be held April 11 to 15.
Bahamas Aquatics Federation (BAF) President Algernon Cargill said that Team Bahamas is disappointed but understands the decision.
“We are of course very disappointed that CARIFTA 2020 is formally canceled – it was initially postponed, but we certainly understand the reason why it was canceled. Our message as sports leaders is to ensure that our athletes who have trained very hard to represent The Bahamas understand the rationale for canceling CARIFTA, CCCAN (Central American and Caribbean Swimming Federation) Championships and all of the other age group meets. This is primarily for their safety given the COVID-19 situation,” Cargill said. “They are disappointed but our jobs as their administrators is to build them up emotionally and make them strong so that next year they can come back stronger than ever before.”
Cargill is also a member of the FINA (International Swimming Federation) Bereau. He said after a recommendation was made for Barbados to remain the host of the 2021 championships, it was accepted. With Barbados hosting the 2021 version, this means that St. Lucia, the initial host of the 2021 championships, will now host CARIFTA aquatics in 2022.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the sporting world, as many professional leagues have shut down. Cargill said that swimming is no different as there are many uncertainties and 2021 will allow organizers to have more clarity.
“No one knows the IFTA 2020 is the best move because there are too many unknowns,” Cargill said. “To plan a meet and commit financing resources, signing contracts and not knowing that we would be able to have the meet at all is like I said – too much unknowns. Moving into 2021, when we can plan better and know more about the new normal, is the right move. The risk then can better managed and mitigated in 2021.”
The Bahamas was looking forward to winning a fourth straight swimming title and also defending the under-16 water polo title. Heading into next year, Cargill is confident that The Bahamas will be strong, adding that he believes they would have won this year’s edition.
“We feel confident. We would have easily won
CARIFTA 2020 had it been held any time in 2020. Next year, we feel we will be strong also in CARIFTA 2021 in Barbados. We have a very strong age group program and that reason is because that has been Bahamas Aquatics’ vision for many years – to build a base to win CARIFTA. We have done that over the last seven years, sustaining this level at CARIFTA,” said Cargill.
He said that the BAF is the only federation in The Bahamas that has three consecutive CARIFTA titles under its belt. The swim team has captured five of the last six titles, with Guadeloupe spoiling a three-peat back in 2016 in Fort-de-France, Martinique.
One group of swimmers that will feel extremely disappointed with the cancellation is the one that is aging out of CARIFTA this year. Those swimmers include Anya MacPhail, DaVante Carey, Ian Pinder, Kaliyah Albury and Mark-Anthony Thompson.
“Unfortunately, this is their last year,” Cargill stated. “CARIFTA is a statutory age group meet. In that, once you pass the age limit, the rules don’t allow you to continue. Unfortunately, the swimmers who would have competed this year in the 15 to 17 age group and would have aged out of CARFITA; they would not be able to compete next year. It hurts us because we have a lot of strong swimmers in that group and this would have been their last year at CARIFTA. Having said that, we have to prepare. The other groups of swimmers that are coming up have to show that we can defend our 2019 championship in 2021 in Barbados.”
They have aged out of next year’s meet, but Cargill believes they can do well at the senior level in years to come.
Last year, the swimmers won 73 medals, inclusive of 35 gold, 18 silver and 20 bronze. The closest country to them was Jamaica with 59 total medals, inclusive of 22 gold medals. Trinidad and Tobago finished third with 43 total medals – 17 of which were gold.
In the point standings, The Bahamas won with 889.50 points. Jamaica was second with 748 points and Trinidad and Tobago finished third with 676 points.
In CARIFTA water polo last year, The Bahamas’ under-16 boys team won the gold medal, the under-14 mixed team won the silver medal and the under-19 boys team brought back a bronze medal.
The 2020 CARIFTA Track and Field Championships slated for Hamilton, Bermuda, was canceled back in April. It was set to be held April 10 to 13, 2020.