Olympians teach us new strokes

The Cayman Islands have proven to be an attractive locale for Olympic heroes.

The latest trio to grace these shores were Brits Caitlin McClatchey, Liam Tancock and American Conor Dwyer. All were here last week as part of the Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association’s Splash, Dash and Dine fundraiser to boost local swimming.

For Dwyer, the whole experience is a result of his connection with local Olympians Brett and Shaune Fraser.

“I’m coming here from Gainesville, Florida where I train with the Fraser brothers at the University of Florida,” Dwyer said. “I went straight to Florida (after the holidays) to train and meet up with the Frasers. The arrangements were easily done.

“I’m friends with the Frasers and this is my first time in Cayman. Having met Caymanian swimmers in Florida, I hope Cayman will go far and produce more Olympians like Brett and Shaune.”

The Chicago native and the Frasers have a lot in common. All stormed the collegiate scene as Gators and competed in the 2012 London Olympics. Dwyer, who turned 24 earlier this month, would go on to win a gold medal as a member of the winning US 4×200-metre freestyle relay team.

Like Dwyer, McClatchey and Tancock were on the Olympic stage last summer. In Cayman, the trio led clinics at the Camana Bay Aquatic Centre and at the Lions Pool. Local youngsters would learn tips about starting races and various strokes.

The visiting Olympians would then go on to participate in 200m and 400m sea swims off Seven Mile Beach before capping off their Cayman trip with a brunch at the Marriott Grand Cayman Beach Resort.

For the Brits, their Cayman sojourn has its roots in technical director for Cayman swimming, Ian Armiger. The former Loughborough University swim coach developed many Olympians, such as McClatchey and Tancock, in his tenure. Tancock, 27, states his Cayman visit was a positive experience.

“This is my first visit and it was pretty good,” said Tancock, who is from Exeter, England. “I was based in Loughborough 9-10 years and I knew coach Ian in that time so I was excited to come out to see the structure here. I was talking to coach Ian after the Olympics, getting updates and it seemed to be going really well.

“It was an opportunity not to be missed. It went well with the kids at Camana Bay and it was all positive at the Lions Pool.”

McClatchey’s link to Armiger and Cayman swimming goes a step further, having visited these shores last year alongside fellow British Olympians Joe Roebuck and Amy Smith. McClatchey, 27, states she has seen progress.

“Coach Ian was the heart and soul of the Loughborough swim team,” said McClatchey, who is based in Edinburgh, Scotland. “I was heartbroken when he left but he’s come here and done well. I came before the Olympic Games last year and I’m excited to see some movement on the scene.

“Seeing how they progressed, seeing them perform, I know coach Ian helped me progress up the ranks with his structure and I really like what I’m seeing here.”

From here, most of the swimming world will turn its attention to the 15th Fédération Internationale de Natation World Championships from 19 July to 4 August in Barcelona, Spain. Dwyer, McClatchey and Tancock are no different.

“My next stop is a local meet in Austin, Texas,” Dwyer said. “This year, I’m aiming to qualify for the US world championship team going to Barcelona.”

“I just moved to Edinburgh and started a new programme,” McClatchey said. “I’m focused on the world trials for the world championships this summer and the Commonwealth championships in two years time. I’m from Scotland so the Commonwealth Games are home games and a big thing for me.”

“It’s about the world championships and the Commonwealth championships for me,” Tancock said. “I’m heading back to Loughborough to train. But Barcelona is what we’re all shooting for.”