The Cayman Islands Olympic team includes two athletes about to make history at the Tokyo Games.
Jillian Crooks, at 15, is Cayman’s youngest-ever Olympian, and track star Shalysa Wray is set to become the first Caymanian ever to run in the 400-metre event.
Crooks, who holds more than 100 Cayman Islands swimming records, has been in the spotlight heading into the Tokyo Games, considering she will be competing against the world’s best at her young age.
While Crooks received an invitation from the Olympic Games Tripartite Commission, like teammates Wray and gymnast Raegan Rutty, she is keen on advancing out of her heat.
“I am looking forward to representing the Cayman Islands on the world stage,” she said, according to a post on the Cayman Islands Olympic Committee Facebook page. “My goals for the 2021 Olympic Games are to make a personal best time in the one-hundred-meter freestyle event and hopefully, make a semifinal.”
Another first for the Games is that the International Olympic Committee has encouraged all National Olympic Committees to have their flag carried by one female and one male athlete at the opening ceremony on 23 July, as part of efforts to promote gender equality. The CIOC has named Crooks and Brett Fraser for that honour.
Crooks said ahead of the Games, “I would like to thank God for giving me this talent and providing me with the opportunity to use it.” She also thanked her church, coaches and family.
Wray focussed ahead of Olympic debut
Wray, who attends Kansas State University, clocked 54.06 seconds earlier this year to gain the fifth-fastest time in the Big 12 Conference for the 400 metres.
She spoke of what it means to get the opportunity to represent the Cayman Islands at the Olympics.
“I’m just really excited,” Wray told the Cayman Compass. “I can’t wait to go and compete; I can’t wait to just be at the Olympic Games because I’ve dreamt of this my whole life. So, just getting the opportunity to actually go there is a dream come true.”
Wray recently competed at the 2021 under-18 and under-23 North America, Central America, and Caribbean (NACAC) championships in Costa Rica earlier this month, taking fourth place in the 400m finals, in 54.42 seconds. It was her last meet before her debut on the world stage. She believes her training will pay off.
“My preparation heading into the Games has been really good,” she said. “Training has been really good I must say… I’m really looking forward to getting some last-minute work. I am hoping to [get a personal best time], and I’m sure that I will.”
The Cayman Islands Olympic team arrived in Tokyo on Sunday, 18 July. Crooks will swim the 100m freestyle on Wednesday, 28 July, while Wray will compete in the preliminary round for the 400m on Tuesday, 3 August.