By RENALDO DORSETT
A 30-medal total and fifth place finish for Team Bahamas at the 28th CARIFTA Swimming Championships in Kingston, Jamaica, gives Bahamas Swimming Federation executives optimism on the future of the programme, but also placed local issues within the sport at the forefront.
Guadeloupe took first place for the third consecutive year, followed by Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba and Jamaica.
In the 2012 edition, the Bahamas was third with 630 points and 49 total medals in their role as the host country.
BSF president Algernon Cargill said the team had many encouraging moments over the course of the four-day meet, particularly from its youngest members.
“We had a number of great performances. Many swimmers swam personal best times and others swam well beyond their seed times,” he said. “I think Travano McPhee did an excellent job as a head coach at this level. He showed great maturity, and with his staff Sara Knowles out of Abaco and Andy Loveitt from Grand Bahama they did an excellent job with this year’s team. It was not our best performance of the past few years but 30 medals, including nine gold, is nothing to scoff at.”
Abaco native Margaret Albury-Higgs was one of the many bright spots of the team with five gold medals.
Joanna Evans advanced to the girls 15-17 division this year where she won gold in the 400m free in 4:25.46s and in the 800 free in 9:10.26s. She added a silver medal in the 400 IM in 5:15.53s.
In the boys 15-17 group, Dustin Tynes won sliver in the 200m final in 2:23.48s on the final night of competition in addition to a silver in the 100m breaststroke in 1:06.85s and bronze in the 50m backstroke in 30.49s.
“We had many swimmers that did not swim near potential and in some cases we needed to be more competition ready headed into the meet,” Cargill said. “One of our biggest challenges right now is the support swimming receives from corporate Bahamas. We have seen dwindling support and the perception that swimming is an elite sport presents us with further challenges. It is our lowest medal total in recent years and it shows the entire region is catching up with their programmes, so we have to progress as well. “
Cargill stated that the BSF, other sporting federations and the National Sports Authority will meet in the upcoming weeks to discuss logistics of the relationship between the group and sporting federations.
“There have also been challenges with the NSA in terms of the malfunctioning of the pool, general maintenance and access. Frankly, the pool has been down quite a bit over the past few years and it has affected the performance in the pool” he said. “Most of our clubs are fledgling clubs and to tax swimmers to have a meet is not always feasible. For the clubs and the general development of swimming to improve, the federation desperately needs unrestricted access to the pools and greater support.”
Over 350 athletes from 16 countries participated in the 2013 edition of this year’s championships.
The multisport concept of the CARIFTA Games continued in earnest in 1989 organised by the Amateur Swimming Associations in the region.
Due to the lack of 50 metre facilities in the region, CARIFTA ranged from a meet in yards to short course to 50 metre in the early years.
The event was broadened to include the disciplines of water polo and synchronised swimming beginning in 2002 and expanded with an open water event this year.