Olympic swimmer says athletes deserve more
Shaune Fraser has resigned from the Elite Athletes Program partly because he believes the funding should be greater. However, he said he has not retired from swimming altogether.
Mr. Fraser is studying law at the University of Florida and said he simply does not have time to meet the commitments required of the program. He has just completed his first year of law school and has two years remaining.
“Unfortunately, due to law school and my professional career, I will not have the time required to seriously commit myself to swimming as I did in the past,” Fraser said. “But I still swim almost every day.”
He also thinks the elite program’s funding is inadequate, considering that he was a semifinalist at the London Olympics two years ago, along with younger brother Brett.
“I opted out of the elite program because my professional responsibilities at law school left me unable to fulfill all of the athletic commitments of the elite program,” Fraser said.
“Most professional sporting careers are short-lived – especially swimming – and this decision was made in my best interest.
“I am in the prime of my swimming career at 26 and have a 2013 world ranking of No. 17, achieved at last year’s Island Games in the 100 meters butterfly in 51.06 seconds.”
However, after careful consideration this was the best decision for me.”
Shaune Fraser is Cayman’s most accomplished swimmer – he has been to the past three Olympic Games. His brother Brett, 24, is a two-time Olympian and remains in the elite program because he meets all the criteria and will compete at the Commonwealth Games later this month.
Shaune Fraser would have received $39,425 in the elite program, according to documents in the 2014/15 budget. Government pays top athletes to train and compete and allocated the same amount to Brett Fraser, sprinter Kemar Hyman and high hurdler Ronald Forbes. Last year, the Fraser brothers were paid $43,000; the highest amount they received was $53,000 in 2010.
Shaune Fraser believes that the elite program, while it undoubtedly has helped his swimming career, has several shortcomings.
“It does not address the unique commitment to training that swimming requires, and living in the United States permanently and training with your head coach on a full-time basis,” he said.
He said he feels that the current level of funding makes it extremely difficult to compete with world champions like Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte who have access to the best swimming resources, private sponsors and sporting organizations.
“Despite constantly improving our FINA [International Swimming Federation] world swimming ranking (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013), our grant continues to be reduced each year,” he said.
“This provides little incentive to continue with the long hours and hard work that swimming demands.”
He said he plans on competing this fall and as the next Olympics are still two years away, he may compete there.
“The Cayman Islands will always be my home and it is a tremendous honor to continuously represent my country on the world’s biggest stage,” he said. “I remain in great swimming shape and depending on my commitments during that period, it could be a possibility.
“I would also like to thank former Sports Minister Mark Scotland for his belief in me in 2010 at the beginning of my professional career, and I hope we made the Cayman Islands proud during my tenure as an elite athlete.”
The Fraser brothers entered the recent Flowers One Mile Sea Swim and are supportive of Cayman swimming projects whenever the time and opportunity allows.
“Brett and I made it a priority of ours to remain highly involved within the Cayman Islands sporting community for the rest of our lives,” he said.
“We remain confident that the Cayman Islands will witness even greater success from the younger generation.”
Sport Minister Osbourne Bodden told the Cayman Compass that there was no drop in funding for any elite athletes but there may have been delays based primarily on late reports and the subsequent time it took to process payments.
He added that elite athletes have contracts that dictate a minimum amount of events and performance targets and when these are not met, the athlete is put on probation and if not corrected the athlete is removed.
“Both Shaune and Brett were put on probation earlier this year,” he said. “In Shaune’s case, he simply didn’t have the time, as indicated, to keep up with the schedule due to his career commitments.
“We are very proud of what he and his brother have achieved in swimming for themselves and the Cayman Islands and wish him well as he pursues his future career plans.
“There is no acrimony between the ministry, myself and Shaune and he took this decision voluntarily and advised us in writing. Maybe in time Shaune will be back to competitive swimming for Cayman. Who knows?”
“Hopefully, Brett will continue and he is swimming for Cayman at the Commonwealth Games.”