Olympians warmed to quick dip

Two Olympic swimming medalists escaped the wintry chills of their U.S. cities to visit Cayman last week, and their support of a series of events to raise money for the swimming program was well received.

KPMG supported the Splash, Dash and Brunch events and helped bring star Olympians Peter Vanderkaay and Davis Tarwater.

Vanderkaay won bronze in the 400-meter freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics and helped the 800m free relay team to a gold medal at the 2011 FINA World Championships.

Tarwater won gold in the 800m free relay at the London Games and broke the 200m fly American record at the 2011 Duel in the Pool.

Splash, Dash and Brunch ran from Thursday to Sunday and started with age group clinics for the local swim community on Thursday and Friday.

Then there were sea swims of 200m and 400m on Saturday and the brunch with Olympians, live auction and “lucky dip,” and Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association annual awards ceremony on Sunday at the Marriott resort.

Money raised at the brunch went toward all of CIASA’s swim programs, including learn to swim, coaching clinics and international swim meets such as CARIFTA, Island Games, Pan Am Games, World Championships and the masters competitions.

Vanderkaay was in Cayman for the first time for the Flowers One Mile Sea Swim last June and said he found it “remarkable.”

Race coordinator Sandy Hew had a hectic time ensuring everything went smoothly but managed that perfectly.

Vanderkaay, who is based in Detroit, Michigan, said conditions here are considerably warmer than home, where they are below freezing right now. There are no swims organized in any of the nearby Great Lakes at this time of year, he laughed.

“I love coming down here and swimming,” Vanderkaay said. “The conditions are some of the best in the world for open water swimming.”

He added, “We worked with the kids and there is definitely a lot of talent down here. I think they’re in a good program and can take it as far as they want. It’s exciting to see that.”

Tarwater swam the 200m, and Vanderkaay did the 400m.

Tarwater, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, was here too for the first time at last year’s Flowers Swim.

“It’s great to be back here and get a little break from the cold weather,” he said. “We’re really close with Bailey Weathers [Cayman’s technical director] and he was really instrumental in getting us down here.”

Tarwater added that he enjoys helping to develop swimming programs like Cayman’s and they were thrilled to be a part of the fundraisers and to give the local swimming scene “awareness and notoriety.”

Michael Lockwood, president of CIASA, said, “It’s been great. It’s always good when visiting Olympians come down.

“The kids interact with them and learn from them and get that exposure to what they really want to aspire to. It’s really inspiring for the kids.”

He added that the Olympians enjoyed the Flowers Sea Swim so much last year that they’re returning for the next one.

“We’re going to get a permanent residency for them,” he joked.

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