With a history of medals overseas and Olympic talent, it makes sense for local swimming to be under pressure.
Expectations are high for local swimmers Geoffrey Butler, Lara Butler, David Ebanks, Brett Fraser, Lauren Hew and Alex McCallum as they represent the Cayman Islands in Scotland at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The competition runs from July 23 to Aug. 3 and Geoffrey Butler will contest the men’s 400 meter freestyle, 200m free and 1500m free, Fraser tackles the men’s 50m butterfly and 50m free and Lara Butler swims in the women’s 100m butterfly, 100m backstroke, 200m Individual Medley and 200m fly.
McCallum competes in the men’s 200m back, 100m back and 50m back, Ebanks tackles 100m breaststroke and 50m breast and Hew swims in the 200m back, 100m back and 50m back. Geoffrey Butler is the first in action from 10:47 a.m. Scotland time or 4:47 a.m. Cayman time on July 24 in the 400m heats.
Lara Butler, 20, is one of the main medal hopefuls after claiming seven medals at the 2013 Island Games. The University of Loughborough student says she does not feel an extra burden to excel in Glasgow.
“My goals for the upcoming Games are to get personal bests and enjoy my experience at the Games,” Lara Butler said. “My main routine between now and the Games is hard training and exams.”
In Bermuda last summer, Lara Butler was all the rage with three gold, two silver and two bronze medals. She set two Island Games records in the 100m butterfly with a time of 1:02.44 and the 200m fly with a time of 2:16.45.
Fraser, who has represented Cayman at the Olympics, was even more dominant last year, winning four individual medals (100m free gold, 50m fly gold, 50m free gold, 100m fly silver) while being part of four medal-winning relay teams (4x100m free gold, 4x100m medley silver, 4x50m free silver, 4x50m medley bronze).
He also set numerous Island Games records by swimming the 100m free in 47.65 seconds, completing the 50m fly in 23.26 seconds (he had a record time of 24.09 seconds in the preliminaries) and finishing the 50m free in 21.73 seconds. He previously said the key to his success in Glasgow is not his training but moral support from the team.
Indeed, most of the swimmers going to Scotland were part of that wildly successful group in Bermuda. Among them was Geoffrey Butler and McCallum. With four relay medals to his name, McCallum served notice he is an Olympic hopeful at age 19.
Heading into Glasgow, the University of Loughborough student says his focus rests on low times rather than medals.
“My routine has been exams and training,” McCallum said. “I dislike the early morning swims but I like the feeling of getting personal bests throughout the season. My best moment was getting a gold medal for Cayman at the Island Games and my goal for the upcoming Games is to achieve large PBs heading into next season.”
For all of that experience and reputation of international success, Commonwealth Games will be a new stage for Hew and Ebanks. Of the two, Hew, 14, heads into Glasgow with more hype after a dominant showing at the XXIX CARIFTA Swimming Championships in April. She won gold in the 13-14 girls 100m back with a time of 1:07:21, setting a new CARIFTA record in the process. She then nabbed gold in the 200m back in 2:29.14, silver in the 50m back in 31.23 seconds, was part of the bronze medal-winning girls 400m medley relay team and qualified for the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games in the 50m back.
The Cayman Prep student says she simply wants to hold her own in Glasgow.
“With my sport, I like traveling, meeting people and success but I dislike having little free time,” Hew said. “My goals for the upcoming Games are to compete well and gain experience at my first international competition and take advantage of the amazing coaches and athletes around me.”
A medal from any of the local swimmers would follow on the heels of track star Cydonie Mothersill-Stephens’s efforts four years ago, when she won Cayman’s first and only gold medal in athletics at the 2010 Games in Delhi, India.