Cayman’s top swimmer Shaune Fraser finished off another superb year in the pool with a national record in the 200 metres freestyle as he reached the final of the 2010 FINA World Swimming Championships in Dubai with the fifth fastest time.
In an event just to qualify for the final everyone had to swim faster than the championship record held by Ian Thorpe. Fraser did that, finishing in 1 minute 42.98 seconds and became the first Cayman Islands swimmer to compete in a world championship final.
Fraser, 22, squared off against training partner and multiple Olympic medallist Ryan Lochte of the USA, Olympic 1500m champion Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia and current world record holder and Olympic champion in the 200m free, Paul Biederman of Germany.
Fraser finished eighth in 1:43.91 but it was still a great achievement and augurs well for the future. Lochte won in 1:41.08, Danila Izotov of Russia was second and Mellouli was third. Fraser finishes 2010 as the sixth ranked athlete in the world in 200m free.
Lara Butler, the only other Cayman swimmer there, smashed her own personal best by a full three seconds in the 100m backstroke in her first ever race at world championship level, finishing in 1:04.77 and shortly afterwards also competed in the 400m individual medley, finishing in 5:08.33.
Competing on the second morning of the preliminary heats, Butler followed up on her strong start by dropping more than four seconds from her personal best time in the 100m IM, smashing the previous national record held by Laura Stafford since 2005 (1.07.95), with a time of 1:05.44
Apart from coach Dominic Ross and the rest of the Cayman contingent, Fraser and Butler, 16, got welcome support in Dubai from Jason Schmidt, who was a swimming coach at the Lions Aquatic Centre in George Town for two years from 2007. Schmidt is based there now with wife Catherine who used to work at Cayman Prep.
Schmidt teaches at Jumeirah English Speaking School Arabian Ranches Aquatics and he got all his pupils to cheer them on. Even in their brief time there, Butler and Fraser have made an impression on Schmidt’s youngsters.
He said: “After they saw Lara streamline dolphin kick under water and, one kid popped up from beneath the water and shouted: ‘Coach, she really is like a dolphin under water!’ Our focus this season has been on their streamline push offs and it was finally great to witness that they understand what I am coaching them.
“It was fantastic to have coach Dom and Lara poolside and what a pleasure to be back on the pool deck coaching alongside Dom. I have so much respect for him and his coaching and I miss being at the Lions Pool.
“I am very lucky to have spent the time with him coaching in Cayman and being part of the Cayman swimming for so many year. It is hard to believe it was the summer of 1999 when I first met then head coach Dave Kelsheimer, Sara Mackay, and Dom Ross at a swim event on Seven Mile Beach at the Foster’s Sea Swim.
“Thanks to Sara for sending Dave and Dom down to talk to me. I then was able to help out with the Gold Medal Swim Camp that summer and then again in 2000, 2001, and I think 2003. Dom will remember better than I but the Gold Medal Athletes we had were Shawn Jordan, Jeff Rousch, Rowdy Gaines, Rada Owen and Chris Kemp.”