The Niagara Open Water Festival in Canada featured the World Junior Open Water Championships and was attended by a team of four from the Cayman Islands – Alex McCallum, his brother Iain and Tori Flowers and coach Katie Lambert.
The festival in Ontario took place over four days, had 31 participating countries, over 400 swimmers and 140 officials! This event was an incredible first for the team and saw Cayman’s swimmers experiencing a number of firsts.
That included a diving start for an open water swim, ending an open water swim with a touch pad which was out of the water in water temperatures of 22.4 Celcius/72.3 Fahrenheit – a lot lower than they are used to at home and using feeding sticks and gels for energy in the long swims.
The first Cayman competitor was Alex McCallum in a 7.5km. He took to the water, which was 24°C from a dive start and coach Katie’s quick overview of the swim goes a long way to sharing the excitement of the team.
“He had a great first loop of three and was just behind the second pack of swimmers,” Lambert said. “Alex held his pace into the second loop and passed one of the 3 swimmers he was with. He stuck through on his last lap and finished with a time of 1 hour 37 minutes 20.8 seconds. It was a great experience and one he will remember forever. He had great support from family and friends cheering for him. It was a fantastic moment for Cayman swimming and with Tori and Iain ready to hit the waters the next day we anticipated another day of great swimming.”
Flowers tackled the 7.5km finishing in 1:52:52.3. Her race was full of red cards – which made for an exciting race and thankfully none were directed at her. Iain McCallum raced in the 5km and had a great second lap. He even split his race and finished in 1:08:58.2.
The three also competed in a team event. In this race they started together and worked together to obtain the best time. The team time is when the last swimmer crosses the line.
Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association president Peter Mackay and his wife Sara were in the area visiting family and they drove up to lend their support to the team. “This was a fantastic learning opportunity for us in every aspect,” said Mackay. “I attended the technical meeting with coach
Katie and we both learned a great deal – maybe one day we can host this event in Cayman.
“CIASA would like to thank the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee for their support of the team with travel. This foresight in supporting the development of our swimmers is to be commended and we are very grateful for it.”
The swimmers extended their thanks to their coaches back home – Andy whom Alex and Iain train with at Stingray Swim Club in Grand Cayman and coach Mike whom Tori trains with at Longhorn Aquatics at the University of Texas in Austin.
The three also extended thanks to coach Katie, who is head coach at the Camana Bay Aquatic Club in Grand Cayman. “Her enthusiasm, support, organisation and on-site support were key to our successful swims,” Flower said.
Lambert said: “The swimmers agreed that the one right word that summarizes this meet is experience. In sport, with each performance, we learn from the good and the bad; then we take those learnings into our preparations for the next competition. I look forward to seeing these three continue to grow and excel.”