Cayman swimming is on a high after its recent CARIFTA medal haul.
Yet technical director for Cayman Swimming Ian Armiger said last month’s success in Jamaica is the tip of the iceberg.
“You would be surprised at the dramatic jump the team made, going from seven to 14 medals,” Armiger said. “But there’s still a lot of improvements to do. We can swim much faster in CARIFTA next year.
“At next year’s CARIFTA, we’ll be looking to raise the bar,” he added. “We can do it if we believe and have confidence. You got to remember, people are talking about Cayman swimming now. We’re not the underdogs anymore.”
The Cayman Islands national junior swim team competed in Kingston over Easter for the 2013 CARIFTA Swimming Championships. Cayman nabbed 14 medals – three gold – to finish 10th overall.
The gold came from captain Geoffrey Butler in the 15-17 1500 metre freestyle in a time of 16:30.55, Kavanagh Lambert in the 11-12 200m breast stroke in 2:52.81 and Lauren Hew in the 13-14 200m back stroke in a time of 2:31.73.
Butler, 17, beat his previous personal best by five seconds in his final CARIFTA appearance and states his focus is on the XV Island Games in Bermuda this July.
“From here, it’s the Island Games in the summer,” Butler said. “After that, I’m going for the Commonwealth Games next year and hopefully the Olympics one day.”
In addition to his gold, Butler won three silver medals in the: 400m Individual Medley at 4:50.79; 200IM and 400m free at 4:08.60. Butler earned two bronze in the 200m free at 1:59.47 and in the Open Water 5K, which made its debut at CARIFTA.
In all, Cayman came away with four silver and seven bronze medals to go along with the three gold. There were 69 personal best times posted and 28 appearances in the various event finals.
Armiger feels those results were a result of a fresh approach within the team.
“There was a lot of expectations and pressure on the team. Last time we had seven medals in total and last Spring, I set a target of six medals in the pool and we exceeded that plus we had three medals in open water swimming. We had a big presence in the overall medal count.
“We were professional in our team kit. This year we had proper swim suits for racing and we looked the part. In general, we ensured we focused on the little things like rest and put out pre-meet sheets about things like health and hygiene. I was delighted to get our team manager in place and the team manager got everything in place. The accommodations were superb, everything was put in place.
“All the kids had to do was swim fast. We were looking at the sum of the parts for the larger picture. For the team to come 10th out of 18 countries is a big improvement for us. It was important having that progress.”
A large contingent of family members travelled to cheer on the Cayman team. Local Olympian Shaune Fraser was among the supporters and his younger brother, Kyle, competed.
The Landon Von Kanel Award – named after Cayman’s first CARIFTA medallist – was handed out for the seventh time since 2002. Barbadian Damon St. Prix earned the plaque after winning the boys 11-12 200m and 400m free. Presenting the honour were Cayman swimmers Butler and Katie Klein.
Many swimmers spoke proudly of their showing in Kingston. Silver medallist Cole Morgan states his boys 13-14 200m back time of 2:18.30 was a major step forward.
“I was seeded second, I came second and I was racing good to hold my position,” Morgan said. “My personal best went down four seconds and it was really fun. This was my fourth CARIFTA and first time to medal. I went from second to last to second in my event and I hope to do more good times and performances in the future.”
It should be noted this year’s medal haul is far from the largest in history. According to the Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association records, Dominic Ross eclipsed the 14-medal mark two straight years, earning 16 medals in Jamaica in 2007 and in Barbados in 2006.
Cayman’s most successful meet was back in 2004, when 46 medals were won in Nassau, Bahamas under coach Dave Kelsheimer. Kelsheimer’s national coaching tenure reaped the most CARIFTA success, producing 19 or more medals at competitions between 1998 and 2004, with 43 medals coming in Barbados in 2002.
For Sports Minister Mark Scotland, government is keen to see more CARIFTA medals in the future.
“The Cayman Islands government is committed to the sport of swimming,” Scotland said. “The excellent strategic development plan which CIASA drafted, and the Ministry reviewed, provides an excellent framework for the future of swimming.
“I am confident that with continued support, the guidance of our technical director Ian Armiger and the strong and focused leadership which CIASA provides under the guidance of President Peter MacKay, we will see our teams getting stronger and stronger; our swimmers getting faster and our medal count going up.
“Again, swimmers, coaches, team managers, congratulations on the excellent CARIFTA 2013 swimming results.”