Champs galore as events pile up

It was another fantastic year of sporting achievement in the Cayman Islands, with many established events attracting some of the biggest names in their respective disciplines.

This was the busiest year since Hurricane Ivan devastated the sporting scene in 2004 with more events and the established ones getting record entries.

It started with the inaugural Mercuryman triathlon in January, which is set for another staging in East End next month.

Also in January is the East End Surf Challenge, organized by Shane “Nobi” Edwards, which gives local jet skiers a chance to pit themselves against each other and some top international riders.

Off The Beaten Track is now firmly established in the Cayman calendar and Andrew Keast was the winner of the gruelling race over rough terrain.

In cricket, the visiting Marylebone Cricket Club team from England gave the sport a higher profile and injected some precious revenue into the sports tourism industry.

The NORCECA volleyball in the spring was another winner, both for sports tourism and for adding to Cayman’s kudos as a terrific place to compete in.

The swimming kids did well at Easter in the CARIFTA Games and their track peers could boast a bronze, in the javelin, through Daneliz Thomas.

Usain Bolt, one of the planet’s biggest sporting names, competed at the second annual Cayman Invitational at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex.

Bolt struggled to win the 100 meters as it was his first run at that distance for the year and he was overcoming injury but, nevertheless, the fact that the world’s fastest man graced Cayman with his presence speaks volumes for the Cayman Invitational’s prestige, thanks to track queen Cydonie Mothersill, whose pulling power with world-class athletes is a superb asset.

This was an eventful year for Mothersill as she officially retired from the track and gave birth to daughter Sophie in the summer.

Javelin specialist Alex Pascal has emerged as one of the world’s top juniors and as he makes the step up to senior level, the 19-year-old Caymanian looks certain to be challenging the world’s best within a couple of years, despite his youth and inexperience. 
Pascal is already throwing well over 70 meters in training and could reach the 80m mark in 2014, which will make him a threat at any international meet.

The CrossFit 7 Mile team won the Latin America title again and, although they finished down the ranks at the CrossFit Games in California against the world’s best, for a relatively new club from such a small island, they certainly have plenty to be proud of.

The tennis scene is thriving with plenty of juniors coming through. The PWC Open is as popular as ever and a new doubles tournament in the summer was won by Dale Avery and Mike Fullerton.

Cayman’s Purple Dragon karate club held its championships in April, which was a well organized spectacle of excellent competition and forms, and they impressed again in a Christmas demonstration at Camana Bay.

CASK Karate is Cayman’s other significant martial arts club and Sensei Greg Reid has done a sterling job in building up the membership with brilliant instruction and regular grading sessions.

The rugby scene was as vibrant as ever throughout 2013. The Under-19s were Caribbean champs again and the staging of the NACRA 7s championships last month was a great success, although the men’s team did not do as well as hoped. At least the inexperienced women’s side finished fourth, far higher than expected.

The women followed up with a good showing at a tournament in Tobago three weeks ago with footballer Shenel Gall excelling in both tournaments.

Charles “Killa” Whittaker was officially retired by the Cayman government too, but he fights on regardless of not getting elite funding. Whittaker put on a show at the Kings Sports Centre in October and won easily.

The show also showcased the unbeaten prospect Peter “Lighting” Lewison and the professional debut of world class light-heavy Dariel Ebanks. Lewison went the distance for the first time for his win and Ebanks easily overpowered his opponent in two rounds.

The amateur boxers continue to impress, especially Tafari Ebanks and Kendall Ebanks who, after training stints in Cuba against some of their best fighters, are now mixing with the region’s elite. The goal of reaching Olympic status in three years’ time looks realistic if they can remain focused and get the right backing.

The annual Flowers Mile Sea Swim was another momentous occasion. Nearly 900 turned out for the world’s richest swim and another marvellous staging by Frank Flowers and his daughter Dara Flowers-Burke, who brought over the customary Olympic and world champs.

The swimming program is building up again to impressive levels. Shaune and Brett Fraser continue to inspire the next generation and with three swimming clubs – Stingray, Camana Bay and Treasure Island – to pick from, there is no shortage of new talent emerging.

The open water swims go from strength to strength and include those sponsored by the Flowers for Pirates Week and also CUC, Foster’s, LIME and Butterfield.

The Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association appointed Bailey Weathers as new technical director after the surprising resigning of Englishman Ian Armitage, who was only in the job for a year, and the American has kept the momentum going nicely.

There is a major fundraising dinner by the swimming association on Jan. 11, the Splash, Dash and Dine at the Marriott.

The Stroke and Stride series started the new season of multidiscipline events and was won by Marius Acker again, although he missed one of the three. The South African ace won the triathlon again comfortably, ahead of compatriot Johan Heath who left to return to his homeland earlier this month.

Dominic Corbin has emerged as a short-distance running champ this year and he excelled in the half marathon to beat Acker who had dominated for years. Corbin beat world-class 1500m runner Gabriele Grunewald into second place in that race, with Acker third. Grunewald’s husband Justin won the Intertrust Cayman Islands Marathon for the second time in three years, only not in a record time this year.

Corbin’s first notable win of the year was the Valentine’s Mile, which he followed up with the Irish Jog and Fidelity Run series, amongst many others.

All in all, it was a wonderful year of sport and 2014 promises to be another action packed one.