Lauren Hew is one of the most promising young swimmers in the Cayman Islands, which is why she was selected for the national team competing at the Samoa 2015 V Commonwealth Youth Games next week.
It starts on Monday and runs until Sept. 11, and Cayman will be represented by 18 athletes in athletics, boxing, rugby 7s and swimming.
Up to 1,000 Commonwealth athletes ages 14 to 18 will represent their country and compete for 107 gold medals in nine sports at the fifth Commonwealth Youth Games.
Hew’s main goal going into the Games is to better herself from her previous competitions.
Ultimately, what makes her happiest, she said, is setting personal best times.
There are no semifinals at the Youth Games compared to last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, so it will be harder to get a second swim in, but her best shot to make a final will be in the 50 meter backstroke.
The 15-year-old Caymanian expects Australia and Great Britain to be extremely strong teams, as they were in Glasgow where they stood out.
Leading up to the Games, it has been a hectic summer due to the amount of traveling Hew has done – from Jersey for the Island Games to Russia for the FINA World Championships and a training camp at The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida in between.
“While I have been home it has also been tough because for the most part I am training on my own, which is challenging,” she said. “However, I am grateful for my coaches Caleb Miller and Bailey Weathers who have taken a lot of time to make sure I am getting enough work in.”
Her recent competition has prepared Hew well for the Samoa Commonwealth Youth Games.
The FINA World Championships was more of an experience meet, and at the Island Games she finished with personal bests in 75 percent of her races which gave her immense satisfaction.
“I fell short of a medal after going into the finals placed second in the 100m backstroke, but slipped off at the start and added a few seconds to my preliminary time,” she said. “It was upsetting, but the positive thing is that I learned from my mistake.”
Hew is not sure what’s in store for next season other than the annual CARIFTA Games at Easter, which is always a focus meet for all teenagers in the Caribbean. It’s also one of her favorite meets. The next CARIFTAs are in Martinique.
Hew swims with Camana Bay Aquatic Club and attends Cayman Prep and High School.
Despite the many hours of hard training, there is no waning of desire to reach the pinnacle. “For me, swimming is like a lifestyle; therefore my ambitions are to enjoy it and take everything that it throws at me, no matter how tough it can be at times,” she said.
“I want to continuously improve and stay on an international level so that I can continue to travel the world where I can meet new people and experience new things, as this is what I love to do.”
Making the qualifying time for the Rio 2016 Olympics is probably too much of a stretch, but she has her sights firmly on the 2020 Olympics.
Hew’s parents, Richard and Sandy, are keen triathletes. That is something Lauren may eventually be doing, she says. She was in last month’s Stroke & Stride, swimming in the team event.
“When I was younger, I always enjoyed doing the Caykids Triathlon. However, I have always been a weak runner, unlike my parents.
“Because I love competing in events other than just swimming, I always find it fun to team up for events such as the Stroke & Stride or a triathlon with a friend of mine, Will Edwards, who can make up for my weakness in running.”
Hew is well grounded and takes nothing for granted.
“Although I am very fortunate to be Caymanian where I get many opportunities compared to most people, I still have to work very hard to earn the opportunities, and it is tough balancing school, swimming and having a social life as a 15-year-old.”