Final sprint as Beijing nears

Let’s go Cayman, let’s go! That was the theme at the sending off function for the four Olympians who will represent the Cayman Islands at the Beijing Olympics starting next Friday.


McLean gave a rousing speech. Photo: Ron Shillingford

The Cayman Islands Olympic Committee hosted its farewell party at the Abacus restaurant in Caymana Bay on Tuesday night. None of the competitors were there though. They are in final preparations for their respective events.

Sprinter Cydonie Mothersill is in Europe, sprint hurdler Ronald Forbes is in Florida and swimming brothers Shaune and Brett Fraser are fine tuning in Florida too.

Besides officials, coaches and sponsors, families of the competitors came out in support. Jim and Laurice Fraser, parents of the swimmers were there to say thanks.

The function was headed by CIOC President Donald McLean and the Cayman Islands Olympic Fundraising Committee Chair Betty Baraud who kicked the evening off with welcoming remarks.

Then there was a presentation by Ann James, acting Postmaster General. McLean gave an amusing speech before Baraud acknowledged all the generous sponsors with a gift.

Sports Minister Alden McLaughlin presented the Cayman flag to Chef de Mission Lori Powell.

The party proceeded to the nearby Hollywood Theatres to watch three films; a preview of the first day cover stamps, Olympic Spirit and Countdown to Beijing.

The party leaving for China from today include McLean, Powell (CIOC vice-president), Carson Ebanks, Baraud, track coach Kenrick Williams, swim coach Dominic Ross, physio Pier-Ann Brown and Observer journalist Shurna Robbins. Also going to Beijing will be the specially selected youth campers squash player Courtney Stafford and equestrian marvel Joseph Jackson.

They will attend the Olympic Youth Camp which brings together participants between 14 and 18 years old to give them an insight into the whole Olympic ethos. Hopefully, they’ll be competitors by time of the next Games, London 2012.

There were too many sponsors to mention but the sole platinum sponsor of $15,000 deserves a shout out. That’s the Saad Group who thoughtfully donated $20,000 towards the London Games. Bernie Bush is the CIOC treasurer.

McLean was in usual upbeat mood. ‘The preparation this year has gone extremely well, probably the most organised we’ve ever been and most of that credit goes to Annie Mae Roffey who works at the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee full-time,’ he said. (Roffey’s daughter Heather swam at the 2004 Olympics)

‘Annie Mae’s our chief operating officer and does all the work,’ added McLean. ‘She’s extremely well organised and between her and Lori Powell they’ve done superbly in getting all the accreditations.’

McLean hopes the Cayman athletes do well but will definitely not put undue pressure on them. Just to reach the Olympics is a huge achievement in itself.

‘A lot of people don’t understand that Shaune qualified to the ‘B’ standard in the 200 metres freestyle. But he did get very close to the ‘A’ standard.

‘He qualified at 1 minute 48.95 seconds and the ‘A’ standard is 1min 48.45secs. The person who is going to win this – probably Michael Phelps – his world record is 1min 43.86secs set last year. That is what Shaune is up against.

‘At the Games, what we would like to see Shaune do is set his personal best, however far that takes him. Definitely, we expect him to go past the first round and possibly further. Brett is going merely for the experience.

‘With Ronald, he’s capable of running some fast times. I think the goal for him is to get past the first round.

‘Cydonie is obviously our best medal prospect. She hasn’t been running fast times this year but that doesn’t mean anything. She did her personal best two years ago in the 200m in 22.39 seconds. She’s capable of running her personal best.’

Mothersill’s mother Angela Whittaker has no doubts how well her daughter is going to do. ‘I’m really proud of Cydonie. I spoke to her today on the phone. She’s good, ready and very excited. Ato is shaping up good. I’m going out there to root for her and we’re coming back with the gold!’ Cydonie’s husband, Ato, is also competing, for Trinidad in the 400m.

Carson Ebanks, CIOC Secretary General, said: ‘I’ve been three times as a competitor (in sailing) and this will be my sixth Olympics. I think it’s a wonderful experience. If anybody can go I definitely recommend that they do.

‘I went to Beijing twice last year, to the chef de commission meeting and another time. Beijing is an immense city. Twelve million and very culturally diverse. Spectacular.

‘The air conditions could be a little healthier but they’ve been working on that so we’ll see how that works out.

‘I don’t want to put any pressure on our competitors but I know they’ll do their best. At the Olympics only 10 per cent win medals so that’s a hard sell to get one especially out of Cayman’s 55,000 people. As long as we keep going we have a chance.’