Olympian inspires conservation

When you’ve won seven Olympic swimming medals – including five golds – you’ve already conquered the world.

But for Aaron Peirsol, there are new goals to accomplish. Whilst his successes were in the pool, his love for the water is based around an appreciation of the environment.
The 27-year old American, may have retired from competitive sport, but the energy and spark is now being used to raise funds for his Race for the Oceans event which is connected with the Oceana charity.

A fundraising dinner was held at Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink at which Mr. Peirsol, considered the best backstroke swimmer of all-time, explained why conservation was so near to his heart.

“I started working with Oceana seven years ago. It stemmed from my love for something that basically gave me the affinity toward water which carried me through a career in swimming that lasted, on an international level, for over a decade.

“It was the lifestyle I grew up in, and the lifestyle that in many ways I was familiar with … growing up in Southern California I saw degradation of the environment around. Everyone was very aware of it and we were not very comfortable with it. We would spend every day at the beach, but wonder why we couldn’t get in the water,” Mr. Peirsol said.

The Oceana charity and his Race for the Oceans are dedicated to bringing back the abundant and healthy oceans of generations past, he said.

Route to recovery

Mr. Peirsol praised Cayman, calling it beautiful and saying that the recent rain had been welcome after spending time in the 100 degree heat of Texas.

“I saw something here that touched me; this island is searching for a route of recovery itself. I also understand the balance between development and conserving the environment. I don’t think being extreme one way or the other is necessarily a healthy thing.

“I find it incredibly inspiring that it has been the youth through this week who have been the ones educating on something that is going to be extremely crucial in the decades to come. Adults can educate themselves but it seems like nobody educates adults better than children. They are the ones who tell the parents how it is,” he said.

Gina Ebanks-Petrie of the Cayman Islands Department of Environment thanked Mr. Peirsol and Camana Bay.

“This year we are celebrating 25 years of Marine Parks in the Cayman Islands … Marine Parks play a really important part in protecting our marine heritage for the future. We must take care of them and the resources within them.

“It is also important that we take the opportunity now to assess those parks and how effective they have been; to ensure that the parks are as optimally placed as possible [to give marine life the best opportunity to thrive,” Ms. Ebanks-Petrie said.

She said the Department of Environment was in the second year of a three-year plan in conjunction with the world-renowned Marine Science Department of the University of Wales, Bangor, to assess the parks’ effectiveness.

“Thank you to Aaron for inspiring people all over the world,” she said.

In addition to the dinner, Mr. Peirsol had been working with youngsters of Camana Bay Aquatic Club Swim & Sea Camp, a beach session and sea swim plus a trip to Stingray City.