Swimming royalty visited Camana Bay and the kids – plus some adults – got the benefit of one of the best swimming coaches around when Olympic and world record holder Aaron Peirsol took clinics.
American Peirsol held a summer camp to pass on some of the tips that made him a seven-medal Olympian – including five golds – and the undisputed king of backstroke until he hung up his Speedos. The Camana Bay Aquatic Club headed by coach Katie Lambert chiefly enjoyed the champ’s presence.
He emphasises that swimming excellence isn’t just about sporting excellence, it also imparts discipline like few other sports because of the extremely demanding training, competition and concentration levels, invaluable life skills, in fact.
He was also brought over by the DART group to encourage youngsters to respect their marine environment. Peirsol is involved with the Race for the Oceans event which is connected with the Oceana charity.
He grew up in Southern California and is now based in Austin, Texas. His childhood centred around the water, especially the ocean which is where a passion for all things marine developed.
Peirsol, 27, quit competitive swimming last summer after the Pan-Pacific Games after two decades in the pool. Now he is effectively an ambassador for the sport. “I’m able to get out and communicate better with people now that I don’t have to train every single day. I’m able to do more for the sport and travel,” he says.
Signing autographs outside Michael’s Genuine Restaurant in Camana Bay, he has just enjoyed a sumptuous dinner there, part of a fundraiser for Oceana. It’s the culmination of a busy week that included a visit to Stingray City.
“Coming to Cayman is not really a job. To me it’s really something I’m fortunate to do when I can. While I have the ability to, I want to still have an impact on the sport.
“The clinics with the kids and coach Katie were fantastic. It’s created an atmosphere and revitalised the sport in Cayman. It’s kind of impassioned a whole new group of youth and some adults. I can relate to that because I know what its given me. It’s not just about swimming but also showing them what they have with the ocean, learning to respect it within the environment and needing to preserve it.
“All that will give them a love for the water that otherwise might not be that strong. If you really want to appreciate what you’re doing you should understand all facets of it and I think these kids are really lucky to be able to learn how to appreciate the water on a grander scale.”
Peirsol knows Shaune and Brett Fraser well and a bunch of other world class swimmers who have been here for open water swims.
Peirsol grew up doing open water swims in exceptionally cold water so he would be more than comfortable here. “I would come here in a heartbeat with many of my national teammates too, especially because the sport in this country is popular. Its exponential scope for growth is really shining through. It’s really just the beginning. Seeing the fervour from the parents for things like the Flowers swim and what it all brings is very special and the kids really love it.
“Shaune and Brett are incredible swimmers. They are two that this Island and these kids should look towards as ambassadors and role models. They can go on and do something at another level and even look at medalling at Olympic level. This is something no matter where you grow up is something very special.”
Peirsol feels teams here are approaching the swimming programme correctly. He feels if Cayman can eventually produce a 50 metre Olympic pool it will legitimise swimming to a higher degree. “Then you can bring international meets here, introduce better athletes from other countries and would create a great swimming culture which is what many places in the United States are trying to do.”