It was different. It was fast. Most of all, however, it was fun.
The first-ever ‘Splash and Dash’, held Saturday on Seven Mile Beach, was a huge success, say both participants and organisers. It went so well that plans are already underway for next year’s Splash and Dash. US Olympic champ Allen Johnson had such a blast that he has already promised to compete in next year’s event.
‘This was great,’ said Johnson, the 1996 Olympic champion and four-time World Champion in the 110m hurdles. ‘I really had a great time here. I will definitely be back next year.’
The Splash and Dash consisted of three relay races made up of two legs. The first leg was a 100 meter swim around buoys in the ocean. The incoming swimmers tagged teammates on shore who then finished the race with a 50 meter dash in the sand. The two teams on Saturday were ‘Gold’ (Caymanian track star Kareem Streete-Thompson and US Olympic swim medalist Neil Waker) and ‘Green’ (Johnson and US Olympic swim medalist Nate Dusing). Format was best-of-three.
The Gold team won the first race. Green charged back to win the second, setting up the highly-anticipated final race.
In that, Dusing and Walker blasted away over 100 meters with neither able to build a significant advantage over the other. Johnson and Streete-Thompson took the tag in the surf and roared down the beach stride-for-stride. Both men beamed smiles but their legs were all business. At the finish line they were inseparable and a tie was declared to force a tie-breaker race between Johnson and Streete-Thompson.
In that decisive sprint, Johnson’s brilliant start gave him a few feet over Streete-Thompson and he was able to hold off the hard-charging Caymanian to take the win for the Green team.
‘This was a lot of fun,’ said Dusing.
‘I really enjoyed myself here,’ added Walker. ‘Thank you for having me.’
‘I didn’t really even know what I was going to be doing before I arrived,’ explained Johnson. ‘But I’m really glad I came. It’s a great concept. This event has a lot of potential to grow, especially here on this beautiful beach. I would like to see more athletes here so we can have more than two teams. I’ll be back. I wouldn’t pass this up for anything in the world.’
Streete-Thompson probably was the happiest of all on Saturday as he was able to compete against fellow Olympians on the beach that was his childhood playground.
‘This was so great,’ he said. ‘It’s an excellent way to combine the two most successful sports on the island. I believe it can really grow into something amazing.’
Event organizer Joe Stasiuk, President of Cayman Islands Sports Development Company, is pleased with the first Splash and Dash.
‘Our two goals for this event were directly tied to the goals of the Ministry of Tourism/Department of Tourism and Ministry of Sports,’ he said. ‘In the first case we used this event to build international awareness that the Cayman Islands is on the road to recovery and will be fully ready for tourists in the latter half of 2005. We did not stage this event to attract tourists for this inaugural event, but to bring tourists on island for the 2005 event. In effect, this became a risk-free opportunity to test the format and gauge the crowd and sponsor reaction. From the response I think we have a winner on our hands.’
Stasiuk says he will send video footage of last Saturday’s Splash and Dash to CBS, NBC, ESPN and HBO. He hopes to attract a major US network to cover a future Splash and Dash event.
Stasiuk plans to increase the size of the field with more worldclass athletes. He also intends to include a women’s race and a junior race next year. Most important, he says, is the event’s potential to inspire young Caymanian athletes.
‘We staged this event to assist the Cayman youth sports community and get our young athletes reenergized to participate in sport, he added. ‘I know that there were at least 30 track and swimming athletes at the event and their enthusiastic involvement and opportunity to meet and greet the athletes has rekindled their commitment.’
Primary sponsors of the 2004 Splash and Dash were the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, Cayman Airways, Cable & Wireless, and Tropicana/Gatorade/Le Bleu.