Young swimmers from Cayman are basking in their success at this year’s Carifta Aquatics Championships in Martinique from where they returned at the weekend with 15 medals.
At the competition, 22 of Cayman’s best aquatic athletes put their extensive training of seven to nine hours a week and their dedication to the test.
Among those who won medals at the games’ open water championships, held on March 22-25, were John Bodden, Catriona MacRae, Sabine Ellison, Lauren Hew, Ria Plunkett, Holly Stradling and Corey Frederick-Westerborg.
Stingray Swim Club member Bodden, 17, has been swimming competitively for four years. He brought home three medals, including his first Carifta gold in the 5K Open Water event. This year was his second time at the Carifta Games.
“The 5K was my favorite because it’s not like the other events,” Bodden said. “It was fun, longer, and it gave me a better [chance] at winning.”
Bodden, who said he felt very proud of the team effort and performance at the regional games, worked his way up from bronze to a gold medal within the competition.
On day one of the games, Bodden netted a bronze medal in the 1,500m freestyle, and on day three, he secured a silver in the 4x200m relay, alongside Cole Morgan, Jonathan Key, and Edward Weber. In his third event, held on the fifth day of the competition, he powered his way through to a gold medal.
“Unlike the other [competitors] in the 5K Open Water,” said Bodden, “I swam smart. I took my time.”
Catriona MacRae, 17, also won gold. The sixth form student, who has competed in Carifta swimming for seven years, participated in five events this year.
“The 400m Individual Medley was probably my favorite because I hadn’t raced or trained for it in a long time,” she said.
Although the 2016 Carifta will serve as MacRae’s last, “I was happy with my swim,” she said.
Making her second appearance at the 2016 Carifta was 13-year old Sabine Ellison. The Year 8 student participated in seven swimming events and collected five medals – four gold and one silver.
“No, I didn’t think so,” said Ellison, when asked if she had expected to win a medal. “In my first year [of Carifta] I didn’t even make finals,” she said.
“I didn’t think I would improve that much.”
Ellison, who trains with the Camana Bay Aquatic Club, went on to win gold medals in the 50m, 100m, 200m breast stroke and the 400m Individual Medley. On day three, she netted a silver medal in the 200m Individual Medley.
“I’m proud that I was able to represent Cayman and show everyone what our little island can do,” said Ellison. “It felt really good [to compete and win awards] because it’s a way of showing the other countries that I am good at swimming.”
Another Camana Bay Aquatic Club member to compete was Lauren Hew. The Year 11 student, who has competed in Carifta since 2012, this year landed a personal best in the 200m backstroke, with a record time of 2:27.12. The 16-year old swimmer went on to win gold in the 100m and 200m backstroke.
“It felt good to win gold,” said Hew.
“When I started swimming competitively, I traveled more and enjoyed it. It’s my life now, and it has brought me many opportunities,” said Hew.
When asked what she was most proud of about participating in Carifta, “How we worked as a team is what I’m most proud of,” said Hew, going on to explain that the Cayman swim team comprised members from both the Stingray and Camana Bay swim clubs. “We had a lot of rookies this year, and we were all very supportive of each other and the younger kids.”
Hew, who participated in eight events, found that her favorites were the relays because she got to swim alongside her teammates. “It was fun; we pumped each other up.”
Ria Plunkett, 13, much like her fellow Stingray Swim Club members Bodden and McRae, also found the 5K Open Water event her favorite. In day one of the competition, Plunkett secured a bronze medal in the 800m Freestyle. In day five, she went on to win another bronze in the Open Water 5K event.
“My favorite was the 5K because it’s free range,” said Plunkett.
This is her first time winning a medal at Carifta, in which she has participated for three consecutive years.
“It felt good to represent,” she said. “I’ve been swimming since I was five, and I’ve always loved it.”
Collectively, Bodden, MacRae, Ellison, Hew and Plunkett won a total of 13 medals for the Cayman team. Holly Stradling and Corey Frederick-Westerborg, won one medal each, bringing Team Cayman to a total of 15 medals.
Stradling brought home a silver in the 800m freestyle in day one of competition. In day three, Frederick-Westerborg scored a bronze award in the 200m Individual Medley.
The Cayman Islands swim team at the Carifta Swimming Championships placed seventh overall in the pool, and second overall in the Open Water event. A total of eight gold, three silver, and four bronze medals were won.