Cayman’s track and field programme has been coming on steadily since coach Kenrick Williams took over nine years ago. A bunch of sprinters are coming on and hope for Olympic glory if not next year in Beijing certainly by the London Games in 2012.
One member of his burgeoning squad could one day be an Olympian too, only not for Cayman. Heidi Manchel is a 19-year-old German who has been national youth champion in long jump and hurdles. An au pair here for two children who have a German father and Caymanian mother. Keen for the kids to be bi-lingual, Manchel speaks German to them all the time. They live in Governor’s Harbour so the trip to the Public Beach every Saturday morning is easy. Just a hop, skip and a jump out of bed and she’s there.
She’s more a recreational athlete than a career one though. ‘I train because I have fun and it’s a chance to get away from the children! I love it. I did it in Germany also for 13 years and I was really successful.
‘Coach Williams is great. It is like the German system because he lived there for three years. (Williams got his coaching degree in Meinz at the Johannesguthenberg University.) He speaks German and he is improving with his German now with me.’
Manchel enjoys the different training regime from what she’s used to. ‘We have no beach to train on in Germany. I think coach Williams speaks more with the athletes than in my homeland. In Germany it is only training and not so much ad lib by the coaches. So here you can train and have a good relationship with your coach. In Germany it is more technical too. We don’t only train, we have to learn the theory as well so we also know in our head what we have to do.’
When she returns home, Manchel hopes to study sport. She might even start competing again.
Williams enjoys the international flavour, Manchel provides. ‘Heidi is a breath of fresh air to the programme. It’s great to have someone from Germany where I studied because she’s been through their system and done some of the work and even attended a German sports school. That is right up my street. Most of the drills I am doing she already knows. And then she understands some of the things in German literature that I don’t quite understand because of my limitations in German. She explains them beautifully to me. I still read German and she helps me along in that respect. My books in sports medicine, physiology, psychology, everything is in German.
‘She’s young, only 19. What she’s brought here is the German discipline to show the others that once you decide to do something, go ahead and stick with it.’