Volunteers and parents helped make CARIFTA special

Like any big international swim meet, the 2013 CARIFTA Swim Championships held in Kingston, Jamaica required a vast number of unpaid volunteers and experienced technical officials.

Assisting the Cayman Islands national junior swim team were Olive Balderamos and Caroline Courtis. They served as judges for the four days of the competition, mostly on the pool deck.

Both ladies attended two sessions per day, arriving an hour before the start of morning preliminaries and finals in the evening. Then a technical debrief meeting after each session, thus leaving well after the conclusion of the meet each day.

Balderamos was a key official for the new Open Water 5K event, just added to the roster of CARIFTA events. Serving in the lead boat, she drew on her depth of open water expertise gained working so many of the multitude of open water sea swims run by the Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association every year.

Both Balderamos and Courtis have years of experience officiating at local meets in Cayman and overseas in other Caribbean countries and Canada and at international meets such as CARIFTA and CISC. Both have trained at FINA clinics for swimming and open water. In addition, Balderamos has attended a FINA school and is a registered FINA official.

Both ladies are also proud parents of swimmers. Balderamos’ children are William and Andrea, both past CARIFTA medallists for Cayman. Both reside in Cayman after attending college, with William remaining active in the sport through open water swimming.

Courtis’ youngest son, Matthew, competed in this year’s CARIFTA meet for the last time. He again represented Barbados and intends to attend Oxford University in England.

Cayman won 14 medals – three gold – to finish 10th overall in this year’s CARIFTA championships. 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.

That performance shows Cayman swimming is returning to its former glory, when the 2007 and 2006 CARIFTA teams won 16 medals in Jamaica and Barbados, respectively. Cayman’s most successful meet was back in 2004, when 46 medals were won in Nassau, Bahamas under coach Dave Kelsheimer.

For parents like Colin Abbott, Kelsheimer’s tenure holds a special place in Cayman swimming.

“The first CARIFTA with Dave was in Barbados in 1995 with my son Tristan being over 16 by then,” Abbott said. “Tristan had been winning all the half-mile swims. It was quite an experience, not least for our very young swimmers who had not even seen a 50 metre pool, never mind race in one.”

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