The Bahamas’ CARIFTA swim team was set to return from its championship title defense in Wildey, Barbados, today, hopefully as winners of four straight CARIFTA swimming titles.
With that junior regional swimming event being postponed, local swimmers have had to find other ways to keep themselves engaged. The 2020 CARIFTA Swimming Championships were initially set for this past Easter holiday weekend and The Bahamas was set to be represented by 36-member team, as ratified by the Bahamas Aquatics Federation (BAF). There is still no indication if or when the championships will be held due to the threat being posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several athletes who were selected to make that trip were disappointed, but said they will be looking forward to helping Team Bahamas go after its fourth straight title and sixth out of seven later in the year, provided the pandemic slows down or is manageable.
Katelyn Cabral, a swimmer in the 15-17 girls age group, was looking forward to swimming at CARIFTA this past weekend.
“I was training very hard for CARIFTA,” Cabral said. “This year was an important year for me, particularly because I am settling into a new training routine in the U.S. and I am starting to explore college opportunities.”
Cabral is in her sixth year on the CARIFTA team, and she will be looking forward to competing with her teammates and against swimmers from other countries if and when the meet comes off.
Kaliyah Albury was set to compete in the open water portion of the meet this morning. This is her third year on the team and final year of CARIFTA eligibility.
“Representing The Bahamas at the CARIFTA level has been a great experience for me. It gave me the opportunity to race against some of the best swimmers in the region. It is also gives me joy to build bonds with other swimmers,” she said.
One of the more notable junior swimmers in the Caribbean and Central American region is Nigel Forbes. The Grand Bahamian was set to swim in the 13-14 boys age group.
“I was looking forward to getting some gold medals and breaking some records,” Forbes said. “Hopefully, the meet is held later in the year.”
Forbes said he is happy that the meet is postponed and not canceled as he still has a chance to achieve his CARIFTA goals for this year.
This is Zoe Williamson’s first year on the CARIFTA team, and for her, it is a dream come true.
“After all the hard work from morning swimming to evening swimming, it was a dream come true to hear that I made the CARIFTA team,” Williamson said.
Rachel Lundy, who swims in the 15-17 girls age group, she said she was looking forward to CARIFTA.
“CARIFTA is very important to me because I get to compete against the best swimmers in the region, and I have the honor of representing my country,” Lundy said. She said she was working on her endurance so she can improve in the long distance events.
Although the swimmers cannot train in the pool at the Betty Kelly-Kenning National Swim Complex, many of them have been working out from the confines of their respective homes.
Lundy, who attends St. Mary’s School in North Carolina, said that she has been performing workouts as guided by her coach.
Williamson said she has been exercising every night and doubles her daily dose of exercises. The Bishop Michael Eldon student hopes to be selected to future CARIFTA teams.
Forbes said he has also been working out at home. This is the second consecutive year that he and Williamson have had their training programs interrupted by uncontrollable factors. Last year, Hurricane Dorian forced them to take a break from swimming, and Grand Bahama is still recovering from that major Category 5 storm.
Cabral said she is disappointed that the meet is postponed but she manages to keep her head up and stay active.
“I quickly shifted my focus from disappointment to doing the best I can to keep in shape until I get back into the pool and back at training for whatever competition will come next,” she said. “Thankfully I have another eligible year to make the CARIFTA team, so I am looking forward to preparing for that.”
Cabral trains under the watchful eyes of Coach Andy Loveitt on Grand Bahama. Loveitt has produced some of the top junior swimmers in the country. Cabral now attends Florida Atlantic University (FAU) High School in Boca Raton, Florida, training under Kathleen Prindle at Performance Aquatics.
“The shift from Grand Bahama to the U.S. has broadened my perspective and has given me new opportunities, all while keeping me humble as I continue to be grateful to every person and experience that helped build my foundation,” Cabral said.
Last year, Cabral was one of the four captains for Team Bahamas. This year’s captains were not named as yet, but she said she has been in contact with her teammates and passes on advice to the younger swimmers who may have felt a little dejected about the postponement.
Cabral was set to swim butterfly, backstroke and freestyle sprint races in Barbados.
Albury, who enjoys distance swimming, said she misses the training sessions. She has received workout routines from her coach and she runs with her mother on a regular basis to help with her cardio exercises. The St. Augustine’s College (SAC) grade 12 student said she was looking forward to winning a medal at CARIFTA.
It is a tough time for all of Team Bahamas’ swimmers as they have worked hard to get to this position in their swimming careers. They understand that it is not only swimmers that have been affected by this pandemic, but also other athletes in different sports as well, locally, regionally and globally.
There has been no official date as to when this year’s CARIFTA Swimming Championships will be held. The 2020 CARIFTA Track and Field Championships has already been canceled and there is a possibility that the swimming championships will be canceled as well. For now, it is up to the local organizing committee along with participating countries to make a decision based on advice from health officials and the respective governments on the way forward.
According to John Hopkins University and Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center, Barbados has 72 confirmed cases and four deaths related to COVID-19 as of yesterday afternoon.