Seventeen-year-old Lauren Hew represented the Cayman Islands in the pool at the FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary from July 14-30, competing with some of the best swimmers from 182 countries.
The FINA World Championships alternate biannually between 25-meter and 50-meter courses. This year was the 17th annual 50-meter (long course) competition.
Out of 182 nations, only six countries had single athlete entries. In the face of very tough competition, Hew’s results took the Cayman Islands in to the top 50 female swimmers in the championships.
Also representing Cayman, for the first time in Cayman swimming history, was referee Adam Roberts, who was selected by FINA as a technical official for the championships.
Hew said she enjoyed the entire experience, though “my times weren’t quite what I expected. But at a high-level meet where I only swam two events, the main goal isn’t necessarily to get a best time but more to gain experience.
“The atmosphere at meets like this isn’t something you get to experience often, so I have been soaking it in and I am grateful that CIASA (the Cayman Islands Amateur Swimming Association) provides me with these opportunities,” she said.
“It’s also very useful to train and race in an amazing new pool surrounded by elite athletes. I will be able to train in Budapest for a few more days before I continue traveling to another competition in Nashville next week.”
Hew made her mark by giving the Cayman Islands the best placing it has ever had in the women’s 100-meter backstroke. She also placed fourth among swimmers of the CCCAN (Central American and Caribbean Swimming Association) region at the global championships. Also, Hew’s swim in the 200-meter freestyle was the first time a woman from the Cayman Islands competed in the race at the long-course world championships.
In August, Hew will compete at the USA Swimming Futures in Nashville, Tennessee. She trains with nine sessions per week and is building up to the Commonwealth Games in Australia in April 2018. Her long-term goals include the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
She now trains in South Florida because of the facilities that are available to her, and “I didn’t want to be complacent with being one of the top swimmers in Cayman and lose motivation to improve. I knew that surrounding myself with swimmers who really challenged me and had the same drive or a greater one than myself is what I needed and what I was missing out on.”
Anyone involved in swimming or who has ever attended a swim meet in the last few decades will have seen Roberts, one of the highest ranking swimming officials in the Cayman Islands.
He said the FINA World Championships “are the biggest event I have ever attended as an official. The venue is superb, with towering banks of seating and the organization is very impressive. There is a tremendous sense of calm on the pool deck and everyone is devoted to their task, from the referee to the basket carriers. There is so much going on behind the scenes so that all is smooth on the deck. We have a roster for the week and are all dressed in uniform. We are mostly in two hotels and travel to the pool in buses for a briefing 30 minutes before racing. At that time, we receive the racing schedule for the session and line up to march on five minutes before the first race.”
Roberts witnessed world records firsthand and expressed what it was like to be present: “This is the first time I have been on deck for a world record and to see four in one day is lucky beyond belief. The crowd in the arena is amazing, with a real knowledge and appreciation of swimming. Great Britain’s Adam Peaty seems a particular overseas favorite. The noise when Katinka Hosszu won her gold medal and Peaty twice broke the world record for 50m breaststroke, was actually painful on the ear.”
Roberts thanked those who made his involvement in the FINA Worlds possible, including his mentors, Errol Clarke and Steven Goldman, CIASA the Cayman Islands government “for giving me the time off to attend.”