Local athletes eye other meets after CARIFTA cancellation

Raya Embury-Brown is focussing on other meets after cancellation of CARIFTA Games. - Photos: Seaford Russell Jr

Local junior athletes continue to train for various sporting events while expressing disappointment at the cancellation of the CARIFTA athletics and swimming meets due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2021 CARIFTA Games in Bermuda and the CARIFTA Swimming Championships in Barbados were both scrapped in May following spikes in COVID-19 cases.

Cayman national swimmer Jake Bailey said it was his last opportunity to participate in the CARIFTA championships as he will age out of the next competition.

“I got a couple of gold medals and silver medals in my first games so I thought I was going to be able to sweep the whole thing for the 16-to-17 age group… I was pretty disappointed that it got cancelled,” said Bailey, 18, who will be joining the swim team at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in August.

His teammate Raya Embury-Brown, 16, said the cancellation was unfortunate, but she is turning her attention to other competitions. The swimmer took home four gold and two bronze medals at the last CARIFTA Swimming Championships, held in 2019.

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“It’s a little frustrating, because that’s a meet that we most look forward to… but we have alternative meets now like ISCA (International Swim Coaches Association) and I think we will do well at that,” said Embury-Brown. “We figured out that CARIFTA was cancelled before our taper, so it wasn’t that big of a deal [for] our training but it’s still disappointing that we didn’t get to go.”

Young track-and-field athletes looking forward to the CARIFTA Games shared similar frustrations. High jumper Stephen Watson, 15, and sprinter Davonte Howell, 15, both spoke of how they are dealing with the missed opportunity.

From left, Davonte Howell and Stephen Watson during training at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex earlier this year.

“I was disappointed because, this is my first time ever getting the qualifying mark (for CARIFTA),” Watson told the Compass. “I was prepared, my coach (Tyrone Yen) was making me do a lot of strength training, a lot of vertical training, and I knew I wasn’t going to get this opportunity back for CARIFTA.”

While it was Watson’s first time qualifying for the games, Howell has made the cut twice. However, his efforts will not be rewarded until 2022.

“For the first year (2020) that the games were cancelled, I was like, ‘All right, I have next year for under 17’, but now this year is my last year for under 17… so I don’t get to [compete]. That’s pretty heartbreaking because this is the year that I believe I would’ve brought home a medal for Cayman.”

Though CARIFTA is off the schedule, athletes will still be able to compete this year at meets including the PanAm Games, World Juniors and NACAC Championships.

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