Courtis confident of closing gap

The A Step Ahead Physiotherapy Stroke and Stride series started last week in exciting fashion, with last year’s champion Matthew Courtis having to settle for second place. 

Courtis came out of the 400 meters swim at Sunset House just behind Alex McCallum and he quickly overtook McCallum on the two-mile run along South Church Street, but in turn was overhauled by Ben Creasey, the triathlon specialist who is by far the fastest runner in the field. 

This Wednesday’s second race will favor Courtis, however, as the swim is now 600m and the run remains two miles. The final race in the series, next Wednesday, is an 800m swim and two mile run.  

Ninety-seven competed and 11 teams entered last week. 

Creasey won in 17 minutes, 17 seconds. Courtis (17:37) was well ahead of former champ Marius Acker (18:16) and teenager Brandon Williams (19:19), who was fourth. In the women’s race, Nadine Gray (22:00) was first, followed by Elaine Kerr (22:34) then Nanine Lourens (22:37). Gray was 11th overall, Kerr 15th and Lourens 17th. 

In the team event, Sinclarino (20:31) was first, Fit Freakz (22:19) second and The Terriers (22:49) third. 

Courtis said this week will come down to the wire, because with the extra 200m distance in the swim he can “definitely” close the gap. 

Courtis, who is going into his third year as an engineering student at Oxford University, has just been appointed swimming captain. 

His ambitions are to qualify for next year’s Rio Olympics for Barbados, where he was born and lived till he was 11, when his family moved here. 

Courtis still feels Barbadian. “I’ve just come from two weeks there and I felt at home,” he said. “That is my roots. I’m a true Bajan.” 

He no longer has a twangy Bajan accent “unfortunately” and sounds more like an English public schoolboy. “I get teased for my accent when I go back. 

“I may not be on the outside, but on the inside I’m a true Bajan.” He still enjoys his flying fish, coucou and macaroni pie on every visit. 

Creasey admitted that this Wednesday Courtis is likely to have a bigger lead on the swim and expects to “have to push that little bit harder on the run.” For the final race, Creasey said that could be harder still but he will give it his “best shot.” 

He had a break after the Island Games, which finished a month ago, where Creasey won a triathlon team silver. His swimming has improved “quite a lot in the past three or four months,” so Courtis winning the series is by no means a foregone conclusion. 

Creasey praised organizer Christine Gibbs of ASAP for staging the series. He thinks “it’s a brilliant concept, straight after work when it’s a little cooler, in a stunning location and really well organized.” 

He added, “It’s fantastic, loads of volunteers.” With the warm-up triathlons coming up next month, Creasey said that this is a “brilliant” way of easing athletes towards the Cayman Islands Triathlon on Nov. 1. 

Since winning his first major event, the Irish Jog, in March, as a newcomer, Creasey has settled in quickly and been embraced by the Cayman sporting community. No need now to get out of bed to train in Guernsey’s freezing cold, pitch dark winter mornings. 

“Great group of people, there’s a really high standard here,” Creasey said. “It helps with the motivation to get out training. Great weather. It’s fantastic.” 

He added, “Before the Island Games I was getting treatment from Christine Gibbs as I was having problems with my running. She and the team at ASAP Physio were really great and have helped tremendously. So a big thanks to them.” 

Brandon Williams is only 17, but his fourth place finish shows his potential. Having just graduated from John Gray High School, he intends to attend a couple of semesters at UCCI before heading to the Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Florida, to study civil engineering. An excellent swimmer and decent runner, he admits that “biking is not my best” but he is prepared to put in the hard work to eventually become world-class. 

He said he “absolutely loves Stroke and Stride” because they are his best two events. 

Gibbs said, “As usual, Stroke and Stride was amazing. The volunteers ensured athlete safety, the spectators cheered them on, and the athletes all looked like they were having a great time. It’s a familiar event that the entire island can participate in.” 

A new timing system was introduced by Trevor Murphy and Claire Griffiths of the Cayman Islands Triathlon Association. 

“Although some were confused as to what to do with the ankle strap, once they learned how the system worked, they were thrilled,” said Gibbs. “We’ve had athletes comment in previous years that they wanted their swim/run splits. With Dinner Martin Attorneys sponsoring the timing this year, we were able to do that. It made check-in quicker and more streamlined which resulted in an on-time start.” 

She added that the highlight for her was seeing “the smiles on the faces of the two last athletes. Their pride and sense of accomplishment was radiating.” 

Gibbs said that this series attracts athletes of all abilities, which is what she loves. 

“It is not intimidating for the new swimmer/runner, but also competitive for the seasoned athlete. I love the small town, unassuming atmosphere which draws more and more people each year.” 

Matthew Courtis will need another strong swim. - PHOTOS: RON SHILLINGFORD

Matthew Courtis will need another strong swim. – PHOTOS: RON SHILLINGFORD

Christine Gibbs

Christine Gibbs

Nanine Lourens was third woman home.

Nanine Lourens was third woman home.