Cayman’s swimmers, who won a record 47 medals in the pool and three more in open water at the Carifta Swimming Championships in the Bahamas earlier this month, were greeted by a boisterous crowd at Owen Roberts International Airport on Thursday.
Among the team members, 17-year-old Lauren Hew led the way with 11 medals. She also won first place in the High Points Awards for the 15-to-17 age bracket.
“It was really exciting for me because it was my last Carifta and we broke the record for the medal count,” Lauren said by phone on Friday. “I definitely improved my freestyle a lot, because I swept the freestyle, other than the 50 meters.”
Lauren flew back to Florida to go back to school, which means she missed the raucous reception the rest of the team received when they arrived at the airport. Fifteen-year-old Zachary Moore, who took home two silvers and two bronze medals, said this was a special edition of the Carifta games.
“It makes me happy that I keep swimming and happy to make them proud,” he said. “It was way different than years before. It was a better team, and I feel like we were more of a team. We worked harder together and cheered for each other better. We encouraged each other and carried on even though we were all tired on day four. We still pressed through and did better than the night before.”
The Cayman Islands’ previous best was 46 medals, and Cayman finished third out of 19 teams at Carifta this season on the back of its record-breaking performance.
Alison Jackson, 14, won five medals and a trophy for the most FINA points for her 58.22 time in the preliminaries of the 100m freestyle. She said she had won eight medals at a previous Carifta games, but she said this one was equal in success due to the team performance.
“It was very exciting. My parents are here and I want to see the rest of my family as well. It’s good to be home,” she said moments after the team landed.
“I’ve been to Carifta a couple times, but every time it feels very competitive and very close. Even though we’re all from different countries, we’re all still part of the Caribbean. It feels kind of like a big family.” The next big event for the Cayman Islands swim team will be the Island Games at the end of June, and the Youth Commonwealth Games and World Championships in July.
“It went pretty fantastic,” said Bailey Weathers, technical director for the Cayman Islands swim team. “We were really pleased, particularly with the medal count. The medal count was really quite an accomplishment for us.”