Former world champion Alex Meyer pipped Cayman’s own swimming star Shaune Fraser to take victory at the annual Flowers Sea Swim on Saturday.
In a sport that tends to favour youth, it was two relative veterans that fought it out for victory as around 900 swimmers took to the waters off Seven Mile Beach.
Meyer, 30, and Fraser, 31, are both officially retired after glittering careers. But they showed enough stamina and expertise to see off younger rivals and take first and second places.
Meyer, who specialises in even longer distances and won a gold medal in the open water world championships over 25km in 2010, said it was a pleasant surprise to win.
“I wasn’t really expecting that, to be honest,” he told the Cayman Compass as he stepped out of the water at the finish line.
“Some of these guys are really fast and in good shape. I know there are some younger guys here that are going back training six times a day right now. It is surprising to win, but it feels really good.”
Meyer, who competed for the US at the London Olympics in 2012, said a pleasant tail wind and the buoyancy of swimming in saltwater had helped make it a smooth race.
Meyer edged out two of the Cayman Islands top swimmers in a close finish. He was six seconds ahead of Fraser and 14 seconds ahead of teenager Alex Dakers who took third. Lexie Kelly was the first female over the line.
Fraser, whose PanAm games silver medal remains one of Cayman’s greatest achievements in the sport, said he just swims for fun these days. So second place in such a strong field was a “great feeling”.
“I am officially retired,” he said, “so I swim to stay in shape and give me a therapeutic relief after stressful days at work. I’m happy to bring home second place and represent my country.”
Proceeds from the event, which is expected to raise in excess of $70,000, go to the Special Olympics Foundation.
Fraser said the event and the causes it supports are a “great inspiration” for the island’s swimming community.
Kate Ziegler, who competed in the pool for the US at the London 2012 Olympics, said, “This event is the ultimate expression of this sport in its best way. It is fun, it is for something bigger than yourself and it is with great friends and family.
“I had the best time. I wasn’t really as competitive as I would have been in the past but I got everything I could have wanted out of this – great times with good friends.”
Cayman’s Geoff Butler is another former elite competitor who swims for fun these days. The 23-year-old represented Cayman in the pool at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
He said he had stepped away from the sport after the games and had been studying in the UK.
“This is such a fun event,” he said.
“This is one I will do every year. It is such a good event for a good cause.”