When the new 50 metre pool is eventually built at the Lions Aquatic Centre, it will boost not just the swimming programme but also other sports to develop.
That’s the view of Dave Kelshiemer, the inspirational coach who produced dozens of champion swimmers, including three Olympians. Kelshiemer left Cayman two years ago for a coaching job in Orlando and is now working in Melbourne, Australia.
He said: ‘A new pool is going to be a big plus for Cayman. I had a 50m pool in Orlando but it wasn’t utilised properly. In Australia I’ve seen the benefits of training with a 50m pool. I never tire of telling people the advantages. Does it help the top end? Absolutely. Do they get faster, quicker? Absolutely. But the biggest effective use of the pool is its use of space. You’re going to get three times the effective use of space of the pool for less than half the cost. You can really use that space more effectively with a variety of programmes.’
Progress is being made for Cayman’s new pool but nothing confirmed. At least the plans have been drawn up which cost tens of thousands of dollars. Speculation is that work will start next year.
Carifta competitions include water polo and synchronized swimming, sports Cayman can never enter because of the lack of space at the Lions but they will be able to with the bigger pool.
American college level swimmers would be more apt to use the facility and Cayman Olympians like Shaune Fraser, Andrew MacKay and Heather Roffey could be enticed to train here more. MacKay did train at the Lions for two days in the summer and might have extended it if a 50m was available.
Many other Caribbean islands have 50m pools although their swimming programmes are not as successful as Cayman’s. They include Jamaica, Bahamas, Trinidad, Aruba, Barbados and Guadeloupe. Barbados is the model the rest of the region aspires to.
With a new pool, more Olympians are likely to come through the system under head coach Dominic Ross, Kelsheimer feels. Many will try to emulate Fraser who won silver at the Pan Am games in July and has the most chance of medaling of the three at the Beijing Olympics next year. He will face the formidable American Michael Phelps though, the world’s greatest swimmer who dominates right now. Phelps has a clutch of world and Olympic medals plus a raft of world records to boast of. Fraser is only 19 and expectations are that he’ll at least get to a final in Beijing. But Kelsheimer feels Fraser could be at his best in the London Olympics in 2012 when he will still only be 24. ‘Shaune’s definitely the real deal. He’s got the skills and tenacity to do well. It’s not fair to compare him with Michael Phelps. But Phelps, in his first Olympics did not medal, only got fifth in a final. Phelps is a phenomenal athlete. Shaune can do amazing things without that pressure.
‘We might not see the best of him until the London Games. To go from nothing to compare him with Michael Phelps is totally unfair.’
Kelsheimer is modest about his input in Fraser’s development. ‘I don’t take credit for Shaune’s progress, he does. He put in all the hard work. I learnt a lot from being part of that process. I probably would have done some things differently. It helped me learn the craft a little better.’