Cayman’s sporting achievements in 2010 witnessed some superb performances, characterised by wonderful commitment and tantalising youngsters coming through, topped inevitably by the queen of track’s greatest run.
Cydonie Mothersill really put the Cayman Islands on the international sporting map with her 200 metres Commonwealth Games gold in India in October. It was the highlight of another terrific year for local competitors.
After years of toil, near misses and lots of disappointment stemming from recurring injuries, Mothersill, 32, got it all together in Delhi and blazed home for gold in a career-defining run.
The years of hard work, despair and sacrifice crystallised in those 22 seconds to make it all worthwhile and validate the great faith the Cayman government, her church and her closest friends and family have shown.
She received a $5,000 bonus from the government, a cash boost from the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee and Advanced Automotive stepped forward with a brand new Chevy Tahoe SUV – in gold, of course.
Chantelle Morrison, Mothersill’s obvious successor, also had her greatest triumph in her short life. In front of a packed, expectant crowd at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex, Morrison, 16, sped down the track to take CARIFTA gold in the 100m in April.
With all the pressure around her, she handled the nerves like a vet to see off the Jamaicans and give Cayman its only medal of the Games. Sadly, she was unable to achieve a double in the 200m because of a hamstring injury and when she went to the World Junior Championships in Canada in July broke down again. Hopefully, she’ll be fine by the next CARIFTA tournament in St. Kitts, next April.
Middle and long distance runner Jon Rankin took Caymanian citizenship this year and is a great addition to the track team. Rankin was sixth in the US Olympic trials for the Beijing Olympics and fed up of always being on the periphery in the US team, he has changed allegiance to Cayman through his parentage. Barring injury, Rankin’s world class times will put him in contention at major tournaments.
In February Dow Travers made a historic Cayman first by competing in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The novice skier showed amazing nerve and skill to steam down the slopes and finish a respectable 69th out of 103 in the giant slalom. Travers received an inordinate amount of international media attention because he came from a tiny Caribbean island but dealt with the extra pressure admirably and did his country proud.
In football, Scholars International won the Premier League with George Town winning both cups, the Digicel version and the FA. So far this season Elite have dominated the league, but after a faulty start, Scholars are making ground. They held Elite to a 2-2 draw over the weekend. The Digicel Cup first round is this weekend and is bound to throw up some surprises.
Elite’s Alex Belcher has the Midas touch so far this term, having cracked in eight goals already. Four youngsters have just wrapped up a three week tryout in West London, England with semi-pro side Ashford Town and they’ve all made a good impression and could return next year seeking contracts. Luigi Hernandez attracted the most praise but Mark Ebanks, Theron Wood and Donald ‘Naddy’ Solomon all did well too.
The Flowers Sea Swim is Cayman’s biggest sporting event attracting over 800, many from overseas. When held in June, organisers Frank Flowers and his daughter Dara Flowers-Burke surpassed themselves again by ensuring another cadre of world class swimmers enhanced the one mile event. Alex Meyer broke the course record by one second and took home the $5,000 prize back to New York. Eva Fabian, only 16, is an open water swim world champ and she won the women’s event. Both were back in November for the Pirates 5k swim.
Meyer won comfortably again and Fabian was pipped by another world class performer Emily Brunemann. They both recorded the same time but it seems Brunemann’s slightly longer arms were the deciding factor.
Shaune and Brett Fraser continued to excel in the water at international level and local youngsters Seiji Groome, Alex McCallum and siblings Geoffrey and Lara Butler are progressing rapidly, judging by their improvement and the clutch of medals they helped the team win at CARIFTA. Danielle Boothe, Amber Myrie and Coral Tomascik are slightly younger and making an impression too.
In cricket, the Prison team were dominant for a second successive year, winning the league easily and many of their key players turned out for the Guyana team that won the inaugural Nations Cup which is now called the Challenge Trophy.
Brilliant all rounder Saheed Mohamed, the Prison captain, returned to live in Guyana last week so it will be interesting how to see how they cope. Guyana play World Stars in the 20/20 Challenge Trophy final on Sunday. It could be the best match of the year.
Volleyball took another giant leap forward in Cayman by staging another successful NORCECA event at the start of the year. International indoor volleyball made an appearance too at the UCCI last month and that too will become a permanent fixture and as it grows will be another invaluable revenue earner for sports tourism.
Flag football’s popularity is on the increase and in November a team from the Bahamas came over to compete for the Regional Cup which organisers Rex Whittaker and Brendon Malice hope to eventually get officially recognised. The Spin 94.9FM Hellcats managed to break their jinx and win the championship back-to-back for the first time, fifth in total, by beating Malice’s side Burger King Panthers.
The Panthers are an inexperienced team but improved rapidly, thanks mainly to the brilliance of wide receiver Ryan Smith. They caused an upset by beating Calabash in the semis, so things look spicy for next year.
The boxing programme really took off this year as the boxing association became more active than ever before under new president Thomas Ebanks. Boxers from the Bahamas and Jamaica visited for shows and Cayman’s boxers excelled on their trip to Tampa last month. Head coach Donie Anglin was ably assisted by Charles ‘The Killa’ Whittaker’s pro trainer Norman Wilson and the pool of talent looks good for international success next year.
Last week’s Cayman Marathon was the biggest and best in its short history. Over 800 registered, including 200-plus from overseas and the magic 1,000 mark could be achieved by organisers Kelly Holding next time. US-based Welshman Steve Speirs was the champ again, with Cayman residents Mark Hogan and Eduardo Torres second and third respectively.
Local favourite Beth Schreader won her third consecutive Cayman Marathon but she will have fierce competition if half marathon winner Krissy Dooling steps up to do the long one.
In the triathlon a week earlier, multi-champ Marius Acker won comfortably again, but the gap with Johan Heath and some of the others is closing. Ray Welds is improving and some of the juniors are maturing fast. In the women’s race, Pam Travers managed to hold off Caroline Cahill’s challenge to be first local home in a sizzling duel. Like many other local events, a record number turned out and overseas entrants were up. It augurs well for 2011 and beyond.
Cayman’s rugby scene remained as well organised and vibrant as ever and lots of tennis kids are developing their skills, inspired again by the November staging of the Legends tournament at the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton. Jim Courier may have lost for the first time in three events here but his humility and charisma shone through again. Stefan Edberg was the marginal winner against Marat Safin. Both delighted fans with glorious rallies, a characteristic of all Legends tournaments. Long may it continue, especially as the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre always benefits financially from its staging, thanks to Ritz-Carlton developer Mike Ryan. This time it was US$63,000.
All in all, Cayman had another fantastic sporting year, despite the world recession and the local economy dipping; indications are that it’s going to get far better in the next 12 months.