Local champs kept gloom away

It’s been another great year for Cayman sport despite the recession. Focusing on health and fitness issues obviously helped dispel economic woes.

The highlight obviously was the achievements of the Under-17 girls football team in reaching the next stages of the World Cup qualifiers (see page 24).

There were clear winners in many other popular sports here too. Steve Speirs unexpectedly won the Cayman Marathon, Marius Acker cruised to the Cayman Triathlon title for the fourth time and Shaune Fraser saw off all challengers in the annual Flowers Sea Swim.

All these events enjoyed record entries with the number of overseas competitors higher than ever before. That says a lot for the increasing lure of Cayman and augurs well for the growing sports tourism industry.

That was never more emphasised by the first major volleyball tournament held here in March. Public Beach was heaving throughout the week and everyone involved, from athletes, officials, organisers and spectators unanimously approved it as a great event. No wonder the volleyball authorities made Cayman a permanent fixture on the international calendar soon after.

The cricketers were busy as always, although ‘billionare’ benefactor Allen Stanford was exposed as an alleged fraudster in February so that source of income dried up instantly.

Prison is Cayman’s top team and also where Stanford could stay for a very long time. Prison won the league and many of that side formed the nucleus of the Guyana team in the Clico-sponsored 20/20 Nations Cup that swept past all opposition to win the inaugural championship, beating Barbados in the final.

In athletics Chantelle Morrison was the stand out Caymanian, taking bronze at the Carifta Games in St Lucia. Morrison and all the rest of the talented Cayman youngsters get a chance to shine in front of their home fans when the Carifta Games will come to the Truman Bodden Sports Complex in April.

Ronald Forbes had a low-key year touched with sadness. Injury disrupted his competitive edge but that was eclipsed by the death in a car crash of his younger brother Reuben in October. Ronald said he will dedicate the rest of his career in Reuben’s memory.

Sprint queen Cydonie Mothersill managed to get to the semi-finals in the 200 metres at the World Championships but her year was also overshadowed. Husband Ato was banned for two years for taking a cocktail of performance-enhancing drugs.

At the Island Games in Arland, Cayman’s track team were the outstanding performers.

Of the seven gold medals, four silvers and three bronzes won in Aland, near Finland, most of the medals came from the track stars.

Eduardo Torres took gold in the men’s tennis and all the other golds came in athletics; Wallace Lyttle (100 metres), Robert Ibeh (200m), men’s 4x100m relay, Junior Hines (400m hurdles), Perry Anglin (high jump) and Ashleigh Nalty (women’s high jump).

The silvers came from Michael Letterlough (hammer), Alexandra Terry (women’s discus), Omar Wright (high jump) and the men’s team tennis.

The three bronzes were won by Steven Reid (100m), Samantha Widmer (women’s golf) and sporting team shooting.

Two Cayman bodybuilders who went to the world natural championships in Washington DC in November came back with a clutch of trophies.

Michael Salmon and Susanne Clements did well against over 200 competitors.

Tennis served some aces, of course, with the Legends tournament the highlight.

Now that the D Dalmain Boxing Gymnasium is finally open, the sport is set to flourish. Three young Caymanians – Kendall Ebanks, Dariel Ebanks (no relation) and Jason Parchment – have genuine ambitions of getting to the London Olympics.

They all boxed with mixed success in the Bahamas in November and a week later Parchment and Dariel won impressively on the second white collar show to be staged here.

Organised by lawyer James Burch, the white collar show raised over $5,000 for the boxing programme which in the few months since its launch has already captivated the attention of children and adults alike.

Charles ‘The Killa’ Whittaker had two easy mark time fights in preparation for a world title shot next summer.

FAST Defense training is not strictly a sport but considering how popular the self-defence classes have become since karate instructor Bob Daigle brought over the founders Bill Kipp and Debra Thomas in March, it deserves to be featured on these pages.

The jet skiing scene powered on with all the great events throughout the year starting with the East End Surf Challenge in January and ending with the West-Tec Aqua Nationals in West Bay last month.

Rugby is becoming a magnet to many – and not just for the social scene. The Under-19s were regional champs but took a spanking when they went to Kenya and faced stiffer opposition in the World Cup qualifiers, but at least it bodes well for the future senior team. There was plenty of great action and achievements in the women’s game and at club level too.

The Black Pearl Skate Park has never seen so much activity. Many top pros have somersaulted their way into kids’ hearts this year and there are even some over this week to keep the momentum going.

Cayman has had plenty of summer Olympians and they will get their first Winter Games competitor in February in Vancouver in skier Dow Travers. A talented and dedicated youngster, he should do well in the giant slalom.

Andrew Smilley stood out as the Special Olympics star with a number of great swims, especially the one in San Francisco a few months back that gained him international recognition.

Squash is raising its international profile rapidly thanks to Dan Kneipp organising the Cayman Open in May, then the Caribbean Championships in August.

The kudos will continue in April with the next Cayman Open, this time in a glass arena at Camana Bay. Cayman will also stage the World Open in 2012 which will add even more lustre to its burgeoning reputation.

The swimming kids continue to try to emulate Olympians Shaune and Brett Fraser with Seiji Groome, Danielle Boothe, Alex McCallum, Tori and Summer Flowers and Lara and Geoffrey Butler all improving.

The road runs culminating in the marathon were fun as well as competitive, especially the Fidelity series of three races.